Dupuytren’s contracture, also known as Dupuytren’s disease, is a hand deformity that causes the tissue beneath the surface of the hand to thicken and contract.
Evidence of Dupuytren’s usually begins with a thickening of the palm. One or more lumps beneath the skin of the palm may appear, usually near the base of the ring or pinkie finger.
As the disease progresses, these lumps — or nodules — develop into hard cords or bands that extend into the fingers. The cords eventually contract, making it impossible to extend the fingers. Routine activities such as washing dishes and shaking hands become difficult or impossible.
What are Dupuytren’s Contracture Risk Factors?
Although many have never heard of Dupuytren’s, hand surgeon Keith Segalman sees patients with the condition every day in his surgical practice at the Curtis National Hand Center and Greater Chesapeake Hand Specialists in Maryland.
While the condition is relatively common, its precise origin remains a mystery. “We’ve detected many associations, but no clear cause,” says Segalman.
Here’s what experts know about Dupuytren’s:
Dupuytren’s is hereditary.
- “The disease runs in families,” says surgeon Taizoon Baxamusa, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and an associate clinical professor of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Illinois in Chicago. This doesn’t mean that because your father had Dupuytren’s, that you’ll automatically develop it too. But your risk is definitely higher, according to Segalman.
Gender and age are risk factors.
- Men are far more likely than women to develop Dupuytren’s contracture, and the condition usually appears after the age of 40. When women develop the condition, they tend to do so later in life, and have milder symptoms.