Ulnar neuropathy is a condition which is linked with compression or entrapment of the ulnar nerve which supplies the forearm. While in most cases, tingling and numbness in the fingers is the only symptoms, some cases may be linked with slight alteration of motor functions. This article attempts to provide information about the symptom, causes and treatment of ulnar neuropathy.
There are a host of causes that are responsible for the compression and entrapment of the ulnar nerve. The causes can be listed under two categories, one that is linked with ulnar nerve compression near the elbow and the other that is linked with ulnar nerve compression at the wrist. Some of the common causes include,
- Blunt trauma at the elbow or the wrist or compression during a perioperative phase.
- Deformities caused by rheumatoid arthritis or metabolic disorders like diabetes.
- Occlusion of the brachial artery due to surgery.
- Sub dermal implants for contraception.
- Malnutrition and muscle loss across the elbow and the wrist joint.
- Fracture or injury can also increase the risk of a splinter affecting the ulnar nerve and resulting in entrapment.
- Ganglion in the wrist joint.
Other causes include cigarette smoking, hemophilia, etc which may also lead to ulnar nerve entrapment or ulnar neuropathy.
Symptoms Of Ulnar Neuropathy
The symptoms associated with ulnar neuropathy include the following,
- Sensory changes in the ring and the little fingers are the most common complaints. The patient may experience tingling and numbness along with burning pain in these two fingers, which may often be associated with altered sensation.
- In addition to sensory alterations, weakness may be a common complaint, though it is not frequently observed in ulnar neuropathy. While the weakness only affects the little finger, patient may often complain of a weak grip.
In addition, some patients may complain of pain along the elbow or the wrist joint.
Ulnar Neuropathy Treatment Options
Ulnar nerve entrapment is a condition which can be treated medically, but some cases may require surgical intervention. Some of the treatment options to deal with ulnar neuropathy include the following,
- Warm water fomentation is considered to help improve blood circulation to the affected site which in turn would hasten the healing process.
- Simple exercises can help in strengthening the muscles (especially if the neuropathy is linked with muscular dystrophy). Further, these exercises can help reduce the inflammation and relive the pressure.
- Some experts recommend the use of splints, as it can help reduce extension and flexion at the elbow joint, which in turn is important to reduce nerve compression.
- Adequate vitamin B12 and calcium supplementation is also required which in turn can hasten the healing process and reduce the nerve entrapment.
Surgical intervention may be required if non-surgical and natural treatment options fail. Surgical interventions include epicondylectomy (for compression at the elbow joint), which involves the release of the muscle which may be causing the compression and release of the Guyon canal (for compression at the wrist joint).