What Is Dupuytren’s Contracture?

If the fingers of your hand begin to curl and you find that you can’t straighten them, you may have Dupuytren’s contracture. We explain the causes and symptoms of this condition.

We depend on the mobility of our fingers as we move through our day. Nimble digits make it possible to swing a golf club, catch a football, or grip a tennis racket. On a typical day, we take it for granted that we’ll be able to hold a hair dryer, lace our shoes, open doors, drawers, and cabinets, and gather the kitchen utensils we use to whip up breakfast. We expect our hands to respond, and when they don’t, it can be disconcerting.

Dupuytren’s contracture is a condition that can limit hand function by causing one or more fingers to involuntarily curl toward the palm. The little finger and ring finger are most prone to this condition, but all fingers can be affected. The first symptom of Dupuytren’s contracture is the formation of one or more small painful bumps under the skin in the palm. Over time, these bumps thicken and contract. As they toughen, they pull one or more fingers toward the palm; as fingers become more curled over time, it becomes harder to straighten them.

We don’t know what causes this condition, but some of the risk factors have been identified.

  • Gender is one risk factor; Dupuytren’s contracture is more common in men than in women.
  • Your ancestry may put you at risk. This condition often runs in families, especially if your family is English, Irish, Scottish, French, Dutch, Swedish, Norwegian, or Finnish.
  • Research suggests a connection between this condition and drinking alcohol.
  • Some medical conditions are associated with Dupuytren’s contracture, such as diabetes and seizures.
  • Age is another factor; Dupuytren’s contracture increases in frequency with age.

If you have this condition, the good news is that you are not in any danger. Although Dupuytren’s contracture can’t be cured, there are a number of treatments available to slow its progression. If you notice symptoms, consult a hand specialist to discuss the treatment that is most appropriate for you. This condition needn’t prevent you from enjoying the golf game, tennis match, or gardening that is part of your healthy lifestyle.


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