What is Dupuytren’s contracture?
Dupuytren’s contracture is a condition in which the connective tissue under the skin within your palm contracts. It often starts with a firm knot or nodule in the palm of the hand. This may stay the same for months or years, or it may progress to the next stage of one or more fibrous bands extending into the fingers. These bands result in pulling the fingers into a flexed (bent) position. These abnormal fibrous bands do not involve the tendons that bend the fingers, so therefore once the abnormal tissue is removed, the fingers may have the ability to move normally again. The degree of straightening does however depend on how long the finger has been held into flexion.
What causes Dupuytren’s contracture?
The cause of Dupuytren’s is not fully understood. It runs in families to some extent, and there has been found to be an association with diabetes, epilepsy (possibly due to the medication used), and liver disease (possibly associated with high alcohol intake). Some people hear of this association and worry that Dupuytren’s will be taken to be an indicator of high alcohol intake, but there is no truth to this. Dupytren’s is seven times more common in men than in women, and occurs primarily in people of northern European origin.
What are the signs and symptoms of Dupuytren’s contracture?
The first sign is a thickening or nodule in the palm of the hand that most frequently develops near the base of the ring or little finger. Gradually, other nodules may develop and may extend a contracture across the first joint into the finger. The overlying skin begins to pucker, and cords of tissue can extend into the finger. As the process continues, these cords tighten and pull the finger in towards the palm. The ring finger is usually affected first, followed by the little, ring and index fingers.