Context Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a cause of pain, numbness, and tingling
in the hands and is an important cause of work disability. Although high prevalence
rates of CTS in certain occupations have been reported, little is known about
its prevalence in the general population.
Objective To estimate the prevalence of CTS in a general population.
Design General health mail survey sent in February 1997, inquiring about symptoms
of pain, numbness, and tingling in any part of the body, followed 2 months
later by clinical examination and nerve conduction testing of responders reporting
symptoms in the median nerve distribution in the hands, as well as of a sample
of those not reporting these symptoms (controls).
Setting A region in southern Sweden with a population of 170,000.
Participants A sex- and age-stratified sample of 3000 subjects (age range, 25-74
years) was randomly selected from the general population register and sent
the survey, with a response rate of 83% (n=2466; 46% men). Of the symptomatic
responders, 81% underwent clinical examination.
Main Outcome Measures Population prevalence rates, calculated as the number of symptomatic
responders diagnosed on examination as having clinically certain CTS and/or
electrophysiological median neuropathy divided by the total number of responders.
Results Of the 2466 responders, 354 reported pain, numbness, and/or tingling
in the median nerve distribution in the hands (prevalence, 14.4%; 95% confidence
interval [CI], 13.0%-15.8%). On clinical examination, 94 symptomatic subjects
were diagnosed as having clinically certain CTS (prevalence, 3.8%; 95% CI,
3.1%-4.6%). Nerve conduction testing showed median neuropathy at the carpal
tunnel in 120 symptomatic subjects (prevalence, 4.9%; 95% CI, 4.1%-5.8%).
Sixty-six symptomatic subjects had clinically and electrophysiologically confirmed
CTS (prevalence, 2.7%; 95% CI, 2.1%-3.4%). Of 125 control subjects clinically
examined, electrophysiological median neuropathy was found in 23 (18.4%; 95%
Conclusion Symptoms of pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands are common in
the general population. Based on our data, 1 in 5 symptomatic subjects would
be expected to have CTS based on clinical examination and electrophysiologic