Dupuytren’s Contracture: Why do They Call it “Viking’s Disease?”

Dupuytren’s Contracture: Why do They Call it “Viking’s Disease?”

“Viking’s disease” is a cool name for a common medical condition affecting the hand. The medical term for the hand problem is Dupuytren’s contracture. The condition causes one or more fingers to curl forward and remain in a bent position. Dupuytren’s contracture is common, but many people have never heard of this condition affecting the hand.

Viking’s disease is a thickening of the fibrous tissue layer that lies just beneath the surface of the skin on the palm side of your hand and fingers. Thickening and tightening of this tissue pulls the fingers forward, causing the fingers to curl in the flexed position. The ring and little fingers are the most commonly affected, but the condition can affect any of the fingers.

Dupuytren’s contracture is not painful but it can make doing everyday tasks, such as grasping large objects or putting your hands in your pockets, very difficult.

Sometimes called Dupuytren’s disease, the condition is hereditary, which means it runs in families. If one of your parents has Viking’s disease, there is a genetic risk that you might develop the hand problem.

So Why do They Call Dupuytren’s Contracture “Viking’s Disease?”

Dupuytren’s contracture is an ancient condition. While scientists have not yet determined where the disease originated, folklore suggests the Vikings spread the inherited condition as they traveled and intermarried throughout Northern Europe and beyond.

Today, Dupuytren’s disease most commonly affects people of Northern European heritage whose ancestors were English, Irish, Scottish, French or Dutch. It also affects people of Scandinavian ancestry whose families came from Sweden, Norway or Finland.

Okay, so who is Dupuytren?

French anatomist and military surgeon Baron Guillaume Dupuytren was the first to describe Dupuytren’s contracture in the medical journal The Lancet in 1833. He had previously performed surgery to correct the problem. Many regard Dupuytren as the greatest surgeon of the 19th century, largely due to his surgical techniques used to relax the curled fingers associated with Dupuytren’s contracture.

Hand surgeons still release Dupuytren’s contracture through surgery when non-surgical methods, such as steroid injections and splints, do not help.

For more information about Dupuytren’s contracture, make an appointment with our hand doctor at Florida Hand Center. We provide advanced treatments for common hand and arm problems.