Your Condensed Guide to Dupuytren's Contracture
What is Dupuytren's Contracture?
Dupuytren's contracture involves a benign progressive thickening of the skin of the palm, as well as the thickening of the palmar fascia, which is connective tissue responsible for finger contraction and grip strength.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Dupuytren's Contracture?
Although advanced cases of Dupuytren's contracture involve loss of grip strength, the condition can begin simply with the development of a small, painless lump on the palm, often near the base of one or more fingers, along with mild aching and/or itching. While Dupuytren's contracture can technically affect both hands, there is a tendency for symptoms to appear only on one hand or the other.
In addition to these symptoms, as time passes, the palmar fascia actually changes from collagen type I to type III, which is thicker and allows less range of motion. Once this occurs, knots can form under the skin that “attach” to one another and form a long cord (essentially scar tissue), which acts almost like a rope that keeps one or more fingers in a permanently bent position.
In most instances, Dupuytren's contracture commonly affects the ring and pinky fingers in men of Northern European descent, although it can also affect women. And as mentioned above, Dupuytren's contracture has a tendency to be progressive and occur over the course of many years, although progression can start and stop at times.
How Do I Know if I Have Dupuytren's Contracture?
Only your AFM physician can formally diagnose you with Dupuytren's contracture, which can be as simple as laying the palm of your hand on a flat surface (aptly named the “tabletop test”) and attempting to extend the affected fingers. Additional diagnostic tests for Dupuytren's contracture include testing your grip strength, your ability to pinch, as well as examining your hands for the telltale nodules and lumps.
If your AFM physician has been following your symptoms for a while, they may also take measurements during each of your visits to discern the amount of contraction that has occurred.
What Causes Dupuytren's Contracture?
Unfortunately, the underlying cause of Dupuytren's contracture is not well understood, although there are certain risk factors that make it more likely you’ll be diagnosed. These include:
- Heredity & Ancestry – Dupuytren's contracture is often passed from parent to child, so if it runs in your family, your risk is much higher. The disease is also much more prevalent among individuals of Northern European and Scandinavian descent.
- Age & Gender – The vast majority of Dupuytren's contracture diagnoses are in men over the age of 40, although women over the age of 80 are also at high risk of development.
- Medical History & Lifestyle Choices – In addition to age and heredity, Dupuytren's contracture is heavily associated with diabetes and seizure disorders (e.g. epilepsy). Smoking and alcohol consumption can also increase your risk of developing Dupuytren's contracture.
Are Treatments Available for Dupuytren's Contracture?
While there isn’t currently a cure for Dupuytren's contracture, there are a variety of treatments available that can reduce its effects. These include physical therapy modalities (many of which can be completed in the comfort of your own home), needling, enzyme or steroid injections, and in severe cases, even surgery.
Depending on your specific diagnosis, your AFM physician will outline a personalized treatment plan that can effectively address your Dupuytren's contracture. However, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s likely some symptoms will remain, which can become re-aggravated over time and require re-treatment.
Would You Like to Know More About Dupuytren's Contracture?
Are you suffering from an advanced case of Dupuytren's Contracture, and need help completing simple day-to-day tasks? Is a loved one affected by Dupuytren's Contracture and you’d like to know how to help? Or, are you concerned that you may be developing Dupuytren's contracture and need to know what your options are?
If so, call Advanced Family Medicine today at (425) 453-6838 to schedule your consultation.