What is Dupuytren’s contracture? — Dupuytren’s contracture is a condition that affects 1 or both hands. It causes the tissue under the skin on the palm to thicken. Over time, this can affect the finger muscles and how the fingers move.
Dupuytren’s contracture usually gets worse slowly over many years. Most often, it involves the ring finger and little finger.
What are the symptoms of Dupuytren’s contracture? — Early on, the tissue under the skin on the palm of the hand becomes thick. This is usually painless.
Later on, people can have other symptoms that include:
- Hard bumps (called “nodules”) under the skin on the palm
- Bands of thick tissue under the skin on the palm
- Finger joint stiffness
- Trouble straightening 1 or more fingers all the way (picture 1).
Some people have mild symptoms and can use their hand without difficulty. Other people have severe symptoms and have trouble using their hand for everyday activities and tasks.
Is there a test for Dupuytren’s contracture? — No. There is no test. But your doctor or nurse should be able to tell if you have it by learning about your symptoms and doing an exam.
How is Dupuytren’s contracture treated? — Dupuytren’s contracture is treated in different ways, depending on how severe the symptoms are. Treatment can’t stop the condition from getting worse, but it can help reduce symptoms.
If your symptoms are mild, you can treat your condition on your own by:
- Stretching your fingers – Place your hand on a table, palm side down. Then slowly lift your palm up, while you keep your fingers flat on the table. Hold this position for 10 to 20 seconds. Lower your hand back to the table and repeat the movement 4 more times. Do this stretch 2 times a day. Your doctor might recommend that you massage your palms with lanolin cream before you stretch.
- Avoiding a tight grip – You can cushion tool handles and other items you need to grip by putting tape on them. You can also use padded gloves when you grab or hold heavy objects.
If your symptoms are severe, your doctor will talk with you about treatments to help your fingers move and straighten. All of the treatments involve removing or breaking apart the thick tissue (or bands of tissue) under the skin.
The different treatments include:
- Surgery – A doctor can do surgery to remove or break apart the thick tissue.
- A procedure – A doctor can stick a needle in your palm to break apart the thick tissue.
- Medicine – You can get a shot of medicine in your palm. The medicine softens and breaks up the thick tissue.
- Radiation – You can get high doses of X-rays beamed into your hand.
To decide which treatment is right for you, talk with your doctor about the benefits and downsides of each option