About Dupuytren’s disease
Dupuytren’s disease, also called Dupuytren’s contracture, is a benign thickening of the connective tissue, or fascia, of the palm and fingers. It usually starts with a tiny lump, called a nodule, in the palm that is often mistaken for a blister or callus. Eventually string like cords develop beneath the skin, and if the condition progresses the affected fingers are pulled towards the palm and cannot be straightened anymore, resulting in Dupuytren’s contracture. Dupuytren’s disease is also associated with other related conditions such as Ledderhose disease, Peyronie’s disease and others.
Dupuytren’s disease is named after the French surgeon, Baron Guillaume Dupuytren, who first described and researched the condition in 1834. However the disease has been detected and documented much earlier. See our history page and the page on miracle healings through the centuries for more information.
Dupuytren’s disease is benign (non-cancerous). The symptoms are often mild and can be painless and may not require treatment. However, it is a progressive condition that gets worse over time. If one or more fingers become permanently bent, it can make daily activities, such as buttoning up a shirt, difficult.
Dupuytren’s disease is a fairly common condition. It tends to affect more men than women, and often occurs in later life. It can affect up to 20% of men above 60, and 20% of women who are over 80 years old. Not every patient develops a contracture and needs treatment, the disease can become dormant at any stage.
Dupuytren’s disease is most commonly found in white Europeans, and it is known to run in families. There is a strong genetic component.
Other factors, such as heavy smoking, diabetes and some types of medication have been linked to the condition, but the exact cause is still unknown.
Dr Charles Eaton of the Dupuytren Research Group gives a good overview of the disease in this video.
The first photograph shows an example of a hand with early stage Dupuytren’s disease.
There are some lumps in the palm which could easily be mistaken as calluses, and in this example there are some cords which could be mistaken for tendons. The person may or may not have any soreness or general pain when using the hand or making contact with objects such as door handles. Itching, pain, cramp or discomfort are reported by some patients, others don’t have any negative sensations.
In the above photograph there is no sign of any contraction of the fingers.
Presence of the disease would need to be confirmed by a doctor by palpating the skin of the palm and fingers, since there could be other reasons for the changes in the palm.
The second photograph shows an example where the disease has progressed to the stage where the little, or pinkie finger is starting to contract towards the palm.
This is often the first time a patient becomes aware of a the problem, as the contracted finger starts catching on things, for example putting the hand into a trouser pocket, or poking oneself in the nose when washing the face.
For an explanation by one of Britains specialist surgeons please watch this webinar.