Florida Hand Doctor Discusses Dupuytren’s Contracture
Dupuytren’s contracture is a condition characterized by thickening of the skin and other tissues of your hand so severe that it causes one or more fingers to curl forward. While the condition is usually painless, it can cause deformity and interfere with the function of your hand. Dupuytren’s contracture most commonly affects the little finger and the ring finger, although it can affect other fingers.
Doctors use the word contracture to describe any condition that shortens and hardens muscles, tendons or other tissue in ways that lead to deformity or rigidity of joints. Specifically, Dupuytren’s contracture describes knots of tissue that develop on the palm of your hand and interfere with the joints of your fingers.
Dupuytren’s contracture usually starts as a bump, or nodule, which may slowly turn into chords or bands. Depending on the location and severity of the nodules and bands, the stiffened tissue can limit your ability to straighten your fingers. Inability to straighten your fingers can interfere with your ability to put your hands in your pockets, pull on gloves, grasp large objects, or shake hands.
Symptoms of Dupuytren’s contracture tend to develop very gradually. Small lumps may feel tender as they develop, but tenderness usually goes away as the nodules thicken and contract to form tough bands of tissue beneath the skin. As the condition progresses, the thick bands pull one or more fingers towards the palm of the hand, curling the fingers forward. It may become more difficult to straighten your fingers as the condition progresses.
Anyone can develop Dupuytren’s contracture but the condition is more common in men than in women. Medical researchers have not yet determined the underlying cause of the hand problem, but injury or heavy use of the hand do not seem to cause the condition.
The condition occurs most often in older men of Northern European or Scandinavian descent, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. Many refer to Dupuytren’s contracture as Viking disease, as some speculate the ancient seafarers spread the condition as they traveled and married. The hand problem often runs in families and increases in frequency with age. Dupuytren’s contracture may be associated with drinking alcohol or certain medical conditions, such as seizures and diabetes.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Dupuytren’s Contracture
Diagnosis of Dupuytren’s contracture starts with a comprehensive evaluation that includes examination of your hand, a review of your medical history, and an assessment of your symptoms. The hand doctor will test the feeling in your hand, and evaluate your grip and pinch strength. Your hand surgeon will note the location of nodules and bands on your palm and, using a special device, measure the amount of contracture in your fingers.
There is no cure Dupuytren’s contracture but treatment can slow the progression of the disease. Non-surgical treatment includes steroid injection and splints. Surgical treatment includes dividing or removing the thickened bands to restore finger motion. Nodules may redevelop after surgery.
For more information about Dupuytren’s contracture, contact your Florida hand doctor.