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Also known as palmar fibromatosis, Dupuytren’s Contracture is a condition that affects the function of the hands. People suffering with this health issue lose some mobility of the fingers, because the ring and little finger on the affected hand begin to curve toward the palm, and cannot be straightened. Over time, the middle finger may also begin to curve. Only in extremely rare situations are the thumb and index finger affected by this disease.
The underlying cause for Dupuytren’s contracture has to do with a thickening of the connective tissue in the hand. As the tissue thickens, the fingers are pulled toward the palm. In most cases, there is no pain in the early stages of the condition, and not a great deal of discomfort even in advanced cases. In fact, the progress of Dupuytren’s contracture is so gradual that many people live with the condition for some time before noticing they have lost a portion of the normal range of movement for one or more fingers.
There are a number of risk factors associated with Dupuytren’s contracture. People of Northern European and Scandinavian descent are more likely to develop this condition than others. Men are significantly more likely to suffer with this condition than women. People over the age of 40 are at a higher risk, as are people who have a history of palmar fibromatosis in the family. There is some evidence that cirrhosis of the liver can trigger the condition.
Other possible causes for Dupuytren’s contracture are sometimes presented, but not widely accepted throughout the medical community. Attempts to link the disease to excessive use of alcohol, diabetes, and some type of severe trauma have proven unsuccessful thus far. However, ongoing research into these and other possible origins of the condition is underway.
When it comes to Dupuytren’s contracture treatment, evaluating the severity of the condition is very important. In situations where the curvature is minimal and does not prevent the individual from using his or her hand freely, there is a good chance that no treatment will take place. However, if the degree of curve is more pronounced and is a source of distress for the patient, surgically removing some of the fibrous tissue may ease the curve. With postoperative therapy, the patient can often recover at least a portion of the lost range of motion.
Other treatment approaches are currently under consideration. There is some evidence that the use of radiation therapy may prove helpful over time. The injection of several medications that can help to weaken the rough tissue and allow the hand to relax are also under consideration in the United States and several other countries. However, at present, surgery is still considered the most likely option in the more advanced cases of Dupuytren’s contracture.