Dupuytren's disease

Dupuytren's disease is an abnormal thickening of tissue beneath the skin in the palm of the hand or hands and sometimes the soles of the feet. The thickened skin and tendons (palmar fascia) may eventually limit movement or cause the fingers or toes to bend so that they cannot be straightened.

The cause of Dupuytren's disease, which is also called Viking's disease, is unknown but heredity may be a factor. Other possible factors are alcoholism, smoking, or diabetes.

The first noticeable sign of Dupuytren's is often a small lump felt in the palm, usually near the base of the fingers. As the disease progresses, a fibrous, ropelike cord may gradually develop, connecting the palm to one or more fingers, usually the ring or small finger, and pulling the finger(s) toward the palm (Dupuytren's contracture). When contracture is severe, the palm will not lay flat on an even surface, and certain everyday activities—such as picking up items, putting on gloves, or washing hands—may be difficult or impossible.

In mild cases, regular stretching of the involved fingers may be enough to maintain mobility. In severe cases, surgery is the main treatment and usually improves function. Even with successful surgery, thickened palm tissue may develop again in the same place or in a new area of the hands. Reoperation is sometimes necessary to get hand function back.

Last Updated: March 31, 2008

Author: Shannon Erstad, MBA/MPH

Medical Review: William M. Green, MD - Emergency Medicine & David Pichora, MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery

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