Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful, progressive condition that affects thousands of people every year. There are a variety of causes of carpal tunnel syndrome, but it's particularly common in women and in people who work on assembly lines and perform repetitive motions in the course of their jobs.
Carpal tunnel syndrome may be considered an occupational illness, and it's a quite common one. Musculoskeletal disorders such as carpal tunnel syndrome account for 60 percent of all occupational illnesses and cost between $13 billion and $20 billion annually, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
What does it feel like?
People who have carpal tunnel syndrome usually begin noticing a tingling, burning or itching in their hands and fingers. Sometimes, a person's fingers will feel swollen even when they're not.
Symptoms sometimes surface at night because people sleep with their wrist flexed. Some people describe the discomfort as feeling like their hands feel asleep. But symptoms can worsen over time and without treatment. Pain may intensify and people may notice that their grip isn't as strong as it once was. They may also struggle to grasp small objects or perform other tasks with their hands. In very serious cases, the muscles at the base of the thumb may waste away, and some people are unable to tell the difference hot and cold, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
What causes it?
Carpal tunnel syndrome occurs when the median nerve, which runs from the forearm into the hand, is compressed. The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage of ligament and bones at the base of the hand, and it houses the median nerve and tendons.
Who is at risk?
Women are three times as likely as men to be diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and this is likely because the carpal tunnel is generally smaller in women than in men.
It is also prevalent in certain types of workers, who perform repetitive motions as a part of their job duties.
There are several levels of treatment available to people suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. Usually, a physician will prescribe a stepped approach to treating the disorder with surgery being the last resort options for cases that don't respond to other treatments.
Some people with mild cases of carpal tunnel syndrome experience an improvement in symptoms after wearing a brace or splint, which keeps the wrist in a neutral position. Most people begin wearing braces at night, but some may also wear it during the day.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are another treatment option, usually prescribed in combination with a splint. These drugs can help relieve the pain caused by swelling of the carpal tendons.
Cortisone injections are a third option and are effective for some people.
The steroidal drug can help reduce swelling and relieve symptoms. Relief usually lasts six months, and people can receive multiple injections as frequently as every six weeks.
Surgery, performed either through an open incision or endoscopically, may also offer relieve. In the procedure, called carpal tunnel release, the hand surgeon cuts the ligament that forms the roof of the carpal tunnel to relieve the pressure on the median nerve. Most people are able to use their hands again within a few days of surgery. However, it may take as long as a few weeks to a few months before patients are able to regain full, unrestricted use of their hands.
Eye Injuries Can Cost Workers Their Vision and Companies Money
March is Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month, making this the perfect time to talk about what companies and workers can do to prevent on-the-job eye injuries.
Every year, more than 800,000 workers injury their eyes at work, some quite seriously. At least 36,000 people must take time off work because of an eye injury, and the U.S. Department of Labor estimates that eye injuries cost companies more than $300 million annually in lost production time, medical expenses and worker compensation.
Prevent Blindness America estimates that as much as 90 percent of these injuries are preventable with proper eye protection.
Chemical burns are the most common injuries, followed by cuts, lacerations and punctures - all of which have the potential to cause blindness.
Of course, anyone in any job could suffer an eye injury. But production, transportation and service workers face the highest risk.
"Our vision is something that so many people take for granted until it's damaged," said Daniel D. Garrett, senior vice president of Prevent Blindness America. "We hope to encourage employers and employees to make sure that eye protection is on the 'to do' list every day."
As part of Occupational Safety and Health Administration that require employers to provide a safe working environment, companies should be providing eye and face protection to keep workers' safe from chemicals and other eye hazards. But given the injury rate, these rules aren't always followed.
Prevent Blindness America recommends that employers and employees take these steps to prevent eye injuries on the job:
- Safety glasses and goggles must be labeled clearly "ANSI Z87" - the industrial standard.
- Glasses or goggles should be worn at all times when eye hazards are present.
- Workers should know where the nearest eye wash station is at their job site, and they should know how to use it.
- Employers should be notified immediately if safety hazards are discovered, and employers should take action to remove them immediately.
- Employees should have regular eye exams to make sure their vision is adequate to do their jobs safely.
- Employees who wear glasses should request prescription goggles or glasses to protect their eyes.