What is Hand Neuropathy?

Hand neuropathy refers to any number of conditions resulting from damage to the nerves that supply the hand with movement and sensation. Its symptoms include pain and loss of feeling, and sometimes reduced strength of the hand and fingers. Some nerve damage is caused by compression injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or ulnar entrapment, and may be relieved through surgical intervention. Diabetic neuropathy of the hand is a serious complication of uncontrolled blood sugar levels.

Neuropathy refers to damage of a nerve or nerves within the peripheral nervous system. In the case of hand neuropathy, it often manifests as pain, loss of sensation, or diminished ability to grasp objects. Some common causes of nerve damage to the hand include compressions of nerves in the wrist or elbow, and traumatic injuries that disrupt communication between the hand and spinal cord. Treatment of neuropathy symptoms may involve surgery or anti-inflammatory drugs, but depends especially on identifying the underlying injury or disease that is causing the problem.

Diabetic peripheral neuropathy can damage any limbs, including the hands and feet. Chronically high blood sugar levels cause glucose accumulation within the peripheral nerves, leading to their gradual loss of function. Diabetes can cause a hand neuropathy that destroys both sensory and motor fibers at the same time, leading to impaired sensation and preventing patients from controlling their hand movements. Circulation may be reduced over time if the underlying diabetic complications are not medically treated, leading to the possibility of hand loss as tissue and nerve death spreads.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is among the most frequent types of hand neuropathy. It occurs when the wrist's median nerve is compressed at a point before it passes through the carpal tunnel of the hand, becoming inflamed. This leads to pain within the hand and wrist, and over time, numbness and diminished function. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an entrapment neuropathy, a condition involving the compression of a peripheral nerve. It can be treated with special braces or surgery, depending on the severity of the neurological damage, which increases with repeated stressful movements of the wrist.

Ulnar hand neuropathy comes from the inflammation of the ulnar nerve that mediates movement and sensation. The numbness and pain in the hand can also radiate back into the arm. It is often a problem suffered by bicyclists, since the position of the arm and hand used to grasp the handlebars may cause repeated stresses as the bicycle absorbs the shocks of a bumpy road. For this reason, the neuropathy is also known as “handlebar palsy.” Entrapment of the ulnar nerve at either the elbow or the wrist can cause painful symptoms in the hand.


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