Healthy Living

The Link Between Rheumatoid Arthritis and Carpal Tunnel

The research

Dr. Minna Kohler, the director of the Rheumatology Musculoskeletal Ultrasound Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston says that carpal tunnel syndrome affects between 4 and 10 million Americans as the most common of the compression nerve disorders. Patients who have rheumatoid arthritis often experience worsened carpal tunnel syndrome because rheumatoid arthritis causes a lot of swelling and pain in the wrists and hands. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis do not necessarily need to engage in repetitive motions with their hands in order to develop carpal tunnel syndrome.

While carpal tunnel syndrome is already the most common compression nerve disorder, it is unfortunately also the most expensive to treat. The annual medical costs to treat carpal tunnel in the United States exceeds $2 billion, with the majority of that amount going towards corrective surgery. The non-medical costs of carpal tunnel syndrome are expected to be much higher and include the loss of work time or production. The lost work time due to carpal tunnel syndrome are estimated to be about 27 days, making it the longest time off out of any other work-related incident except for fractures. About 20 percent of the people who develop carpal tunnel syndrome while working end up leaving their job altogether in under 2 years.