We sought to determine the incidence rate of carpal tunnel syndrome in the general population. Using three different case definitions, we conducted a prospective study to ascertain by medical record review all cases of incident disease in a defined population during a 2-year period. Newly diagnosed probable or definite carpal tunnel syndrome (N = 309) occurred at a rate of 3.46 cases per 1,000 person-years (95% confidence interval = 3.07-3.84). The incidence rate in our study was 3.5 times higher than the rate 20 years ago in a Minnesota city. The rate difference probably results from a combination of reasons, including a true rise in incidence.