Dupuytren's Disease | Dupuytren's Contracture
If you've been noticing a gradual bending of your fingers that reminds you of arthritis, you might be experiencing a deformation process known as Dupuytren's contracture. This unsightly deforming of the hand manifests over time. But, when it comes to full fruition, you've lost the ability to straighten one or more of your fingers. While this disease isn't by any means dangerous, it can make life's activities inconvenient, difficult, and in some cases impossible.
What is Dupuytren's disease?
Dupuytren's disease, also known as Dupuytren's contracture, is a hand deformity. It happens over the course of years, and is a result of the aging process for many. In most cases, this disease process manifests as the inability to fully straighten your ring finger and pinky finger. If not treated, you'll experience a noticeable decrease in the quality of your life, because you may lose the ability to grasp objects. And the simple act of outstretching your hand fully may also become an impossibility.
Losing any kind of hand function negatively impacts your life in surprising ways. You may find it difficult to cook meals, to play a musical instrument, to work in your garden, to use a pen or pencil for the simple act of writing-the list goes on and on. Luckily, there's effective treatment available.
What causes Dupuytren's disease?
This hand deformity occurs when tissues that lie beneath your palm begin to form knots. These knots of tissue eventually come together to create a cord which pulls those fingers toward the palm, resulting in bent fingers that can no longer straighten. The reason for this knotting of the tissue is unknown. Doctors have ruled out injury or trauma to the area as a primary cause. They've also ruled out occupational hazards as a causal factor. In fact, most doctors don't understand the root cause of this disease. Luckily, they do have methods of treatment.
What puts you at risk for Dupuytren's disease?
- Age - this disease typically happens over a period of time and doesn't appear in youngsters. Most men with this disease are over 50, while most women are even older.
- Sex - men are more likely to experience Dupuytren's contracture than women.
- Genes - your genes and family history may play apart in the likelihood that you will get Dupuytren's.
- Ancestry - this disease affects mainly those people of European descent. Older men of Northern European descent are most likely to experience this hand deformation.
- Tobacco use - If you smoke on a regular basis, you're at greater risk of developing this disease. This is likely due to the microscopic changes that occur in the blood vessels as a result of long-term smoking.
- Alcohol use - If you drink alcohol on a regular basis and have over the course of your lifetime, you're also at greater risk of developing this hand deformation.
- Diabetes - those with diabetes have been reported to have an increased likelihood of developing Dupuytren's disease.
Dupuytren's disease symptoms
If you're wondering whether or not you have Dupuytren's, check to see if the following symptoms resonate:
- Your hand is noticeably inflamed, causing a tender sensation, or even an itching or burning sensation.
- You feel one or more little lumps or nodules beneath the palm of your hand. These lumps may or may not be tender.
- If you experience these lumps, you may find that they harden or even tighten, resulting in bands of thick connective tissue beneath the palm of the hand.
- You experience a distinctive pulling forward of a finger or fingers.
Diagnosis of Dupuytren's disease
As with any disease process, the sooner you know you have it the better, for early treatment is always best. As soon as you have an inclination that you might be experiencing this hand deformation, book an appointment with our expert hand surgeon Dr. Eubanks to receive a proper diagnosis.
Self-diagnosis is also a possibility. You can do this by doing what's known as the tabletop test. Simply place the palm of your hand flat on a table. Can you flatten your hand? If not, you're a prime candidate for Dupuytren's. However, because symptoms show up in different ways for everyone, receiving a diagnosis from a professional like Dr. Eubanks is recommended.
If you're wondering how Dr. Eubanks will go about diagnosing Dupuytren's disease, the process will look like this:
- He'll examine your hand carefully, looking at the strength of your grip, as well as the amount of flexibility you have in your fingers and thumb, and sensation or lack thereof, in your fingers and thumb.
- He'll also measure the size of the lumps under the skin on the palm of your hand, and record them in his files.
- If needed, Dr. Eubanks will use a special tool that measures the extent to which your fingers are curling inward.
- Your fingers' range of motion will also be noted.
Treatment for Dupuytren's Disease
Treatment for Dupuytren's disease is an individual one based on the following:
- Your age, health history, and state of current health
- The severity of your diagnosis for Dupuytren's disease
- Your ability to handle specific kinds of treatments
- Your personal preferences for your own treatment
The primary forms of treatment for Dupuytren's disease are:
- Steroid injection
For mild cases of Dupuytren's, but where those nodules are causing pain, steroid injections are the best form of treatment.
- Enzyme injection
Enzyme injections are a modern form of therapy for Dupuytren's contracture. They involve injecting enzymes into the palm of the hand which then break up the nodules. Once the nodules are broken up, Dr. Eubanks will be able to snap the cord (typically the following day), which will allow the fingers to straighten once again.
If your case is a severe one, surgery may be the best course of treatment. This will involve an incision in the palm of your hand to remove those nodules of tissue.
If you've been diagnosed with Dupuytren's disease, don't worry. It's not a dangerous disease. With a bit of help from Dr. Eubanks, you'll regain hand function and return to the quality of life and activity you deserve!
Our Surgeon Specializing in Dupuytren's Disease | Dupuytren's Contracture
- Ryan Eubanks, DO
- Hand, Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon
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