Image found here.My friend Shara recently sent me an email which included this question: I did not know that people with autoimmune diseases were susceptible to carpal tunnel, did you?
It also included this comment: You sound like you are back to your sassy self - in your pleasent state. Your critique of that book was a little cranky.
Dang, Shara. I thought I hid my cranky-pants attitude pretty well but I guess you could see right through my efforts....yep. I AM feeling less grumbly these days. Thanks for noticing!
On to the question about autoimmunity and carpal tunnel. CTS, or carpal tunnel syndrome, is described by NIH (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke):
The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway of ligament and bones at the base of your hand. It contains nerve and tendons. Sometimes, thickening from irritated tendons or other swelling narrows the tunnel and causes the nerve to be compressed. Symptoms usually start gradually. As they worsen, grasping objects can become difficult.
What causes the problem? Some people have smaller carpal tunnels than other people do. Other causes include performing assembly line work, wrist injury, or swelling due to certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. Women are three times more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome than men. Treatment includes resting your hand, splints, pain and anti-inflammatory medicines, and surgery.
You can read more about CTS here. CTS has many potential causes including work-related issues, medical conditions, medications, and injuries.
For people with autoimmune disease, carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by the inflammation which is a result of diseases such as Sjogren's syndrome. This explanation found via the University of Maryland Medical Medical Center:
In autoimmune diseases, the body's immune system abnormally attacks its own tissue, causing widespread inflammation, which, in many cases, affects the carpal tunnel of the hand. Such autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, and thyroiditis, which can lead to hypothyroidism.. Some experts believe that CTS may actually be one of the first symptoms in a number of these diseases. Studies also suggest that CTS patients with these disorders are more likely to have severe CTS that requires surgery.
An interesting study entitled Carpal tunnel syndrome as a herald of autoimmune rheumatic disorders by Badal Pa,l MD, FRCP was published in the Royal Society of Medicine in April of 1997. In it, the author theorized that carpal tunnel syndrome may actually be an early indicator of autoimmune disease:
In conclusion, we recommend a high index of suspicion in patients presenting with CTS, even when the condition appears to be idiopathic. Follow-up is desirable, in case the condition is a herald of inflammatory or autoimmune disease.
Great question, Shara.
Readers: Do YOU have CTS? And did your carpal tunnel syndrome precede your autoimmune diagnosis?