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Carpal tunnel syndrome: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis

Milind J Kothari, DO
Section Editor
Jeremy M Shefner, MD, PhD
Deputy Editor
John F Dashe, MD, PhD


Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) refers to the complex of symptoms and signs brought on by compression of the median nerve as it travels through the carpal tunnel. Patients commonly experience pain and paresthesia, and less commonly weakness, in the median nerve distribution. CTS is the most frequent compressive focal mononeuropathy seen in clinical practice.

This topic will review the clinical manifestations and diagnosis of CTS. Other aspects of CTS are discussed separately. (See "Carpal tunnel syndrome: Etiology and epidemiology" and "Carpal tunnel syndrome: Treatment and prognosis".)


The pathophysiology of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is multifactorial. Increased pressure in the intracarpal canal is thought to play a key role in the development of clinical CTS. This is discussed in detail separately. (See "Carpal tunnel syndrome: Etiology and epidemiology", section on 'Pathophysiology'.)


CTS is a common disorder. The estimated prevalence of CTS in the general population is 1 to 5 percent. CTS is more frequent in women, with a female to male ratio of approximately 3 to 1. (See "Carpal tunnel syndrome: Etiology and epidemiology", section on 'Epidemiology'.)

Risk factors for CTS include the following:


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Literature review current through: May 2017. | This topic last updated: Mar 09, 2017.
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