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Doctor says texting caused teen's carpal tunnel syndrome
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

Annie Levitz, 16, has carpal tunnel syndrome that she developed over the course of a year by texting over 100 test messages a day to her family and friends. She might have to have surgery on both wrists.

 

Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

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Published: 3/19/2010 12:00 AM

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In her wild texting days, Annie Levitz couldn't wait for her day to end at 3:25 p.m. at Lincolnshire's Stevenson High School.

Stevenson students are banned from sending text messages over their wireless telephones at school. So, the minute Levitz got outside, she'd fire texts to her friends and kept at it on many days until 11 p.m., with the lone break coming for dinner.

Levitz, 16, of unincorporated Lake County near Mundelein, is now paying the price for a texting habit that sometimes reached 3,500 to 4,000 messages per month on an unlimited plan. A Vernon Hills rheumatologist cited texting as the cause of her carpal tunnel syndrome.

"It's scary," Levitz said Thursday, "because it is probably going to have to result in surgery."

Levitz told her parents one day her hands were going numb, prompting them to bring her to Dr. Sofia Aksentijevich late last year. Aksentijevich said she diagnosed Levitz with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Aksentijevich said Levitz informed her about the frequent texting. She said there were no medical conditions or other reasons Levitz's hands were in pain, so she pinned the carpal tunnel on the texting.

"This is something to be expected from someone who does that much texting," Aksentijevich said.

Aksentijevich prescribed anti-inflammatory medication for Levitz and gave her a cortisone shot in her right hand. Levitz wears braces that go from her hands up her arms when she's in pain.

John Walls, a spokesman for CITA-The Wireless Association, said the trade organization never heard of a carpal tunnel diagnosis related to texting until informed about it Thursday.

Walls said there have been claims mobile phones cause a frequency sensitivity condition. Use of the devices supposedly led to dizziness and confusion.

"That's been scientifically refuted," he added.

As for Levitz, she said many of her past text messages were "silly" and along the line of "Hey, what's up?" Her parents took away her phone for a while, but she has it back and she said she's down to 20 to 30 daily texts.

Levitz said texting is the easiest way to stay in touch with those involved in activities with her at Stevenson, such as theater and intramural softball. She said she's stressing moderation to other teenagers who text frequently.

"Never think (carpal tunnel) can't happen to you, because it can," she said.