Thickening and shortening of tissues in the palm of the hand, resulting in deformity of the fingers
- More common over the age of 50
- Much more common in males
- Sometimes runs in families
- Alcohol abuse is a risk factor
In Dupuytren’s contracture, the fibrous tissue in the palm of the hand becomes thickened and shortened. As a result, one or more fingers, often the fourth and fifth fingers, are pulled towards the palm into a bent position. Sometimes, painful lumps develop on the palm, and the overlying skin becomes puckered. In about half of all cases, both hands are involved. Rarely, the disorder affects the soles of the feet and the toes. The tissue changes in Dupuytren’s contracture develop slowly over several months or years. The cause is unknown, but the condition occurs more commonly in men over the age of 50, in people with diabetes mellitus or epilepsy, and in people who abuse alcohol. About 1 in 10 people with Dupuytren’s contracture has a relative with the disorder.
What might be done?
In mild cases of Dupuytren’s contracture, no treatment may be needed. If your fingers are slightly bent, you may benefit from stretching exercises or short-term splinting. If you have painful lumps in your palm, a corticosteroid may be injected into the area (see Locally acting corticosteroids). In severe cases, it may be necessary to surgically remove the thickened tissue in the palm in order to allow the fingers to straighten. Further treatment may be needed if the disorder recurs.
From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.
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