What is Dupuytren’s contracture?

Dupuytren’s contracture is a medical condition that affects the hands and the fingers of the person that has the condition. Either hand can be affected and it can also affect both hands at the same time. The fingers of the hand become bent and turn in towards the palm of the hand.

Dupuytren’s contracture occurs when the connective tissue on the palm begins to thicken. This thickening of the tissue can cause nodules to appear underneath the skin. These will be quite small in size and in almost all cases they are benign. There may be some tenderness, to begin with when the modules first appear but they will not remain painful for long. The condition can cause some inconvenience for those who have to live with it but it is not life threatening and will not do any serious harm. The fingers start to become bent inwards when the nodules join together to form cords of tissue which become shortened and pull the fingers down. As these cords become shorter than the curve of the finger becomes more pronounced.

It is not known exactly what causes Dupuytren’s contracture. Evidence suggests that it may be caused by a specific gene. This is because the condition appears to be hereditary. However, there may be other factors which determine how likely you are to develop this condition. It is associated with other conditions such as diabetes and the onset of the symptoms may be affected by smoking or the taking of certain medications. More research is needed into how far all of these factors affect the condition and whether the patient would have developed it anyway.

Both men and women can be affected by Dupuytren’s contracture. It tends to occur later in life and it is very uncommon for anyone younger than fifty to have the condition. There have been some cases reported in children but this is extremely rare.

It is difficult to say whether the condition can be prevented because the causes are not fully known. If other family members have the condition then you may want to look out for the appearance of nodules which may indicate that you are developing the condition. There is also some evidence to suggest that stopping smoking may reduce the likelihood of developing the disease in people that are smokers.

If you have a mild case of Dupuytren’s contracture then you may not need treatment. However, it will be offered if you find that it is getting more difficult for you to use your hand normally. There may be a number of treatment options that are available to you. As a rule, surgery is only used as a last resort and will only be considered if the function of the hand is severely inhibited by the condition. There are less invasive treatments available such as radiation. Collagenase is a medication that can also help treat the symptoms of Dupuytren’s contracture. These treatments should be offered before the problem becomes too severe.

It is also possible to use a needle to cut the cord of tissue which should mean that the fingers start to straighten out again. This procedure is known as a fasciotomy. In some cases, the fingers may never return to their original positions but this procedure should return some of the functionality of the hand. Another issue to consider is that there is no guarantee that another cord of tissue will not form again after treatment has taken place. If this is the case then it may be necessary for another fasciotomy or surgical procedure to be carried out.

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