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Dupuytren’s contracture is a hand deformity that usually develops over years. The condition affects a layer of tissue that lies under the skin of your palm. Knots of tissue form under the skin—eventually creating a thick cord that can pull one or more fingers into a bent position.
Although painless, the affected fingers can’t be straightened completely, which can complicate everyday activities, such as placing your hands in your pockets, putting on gloves or shaking hands.
Dupuytren’s contracture mainly affects the ring finger and pinky, and it is more common in men than in women. A number of treatments are available to slow the progression of Dupuytren’s contracture and relieve symptoms.
Dupuytren’s contracture symptoms usually occur very gradually:
Your doctor will examine your hand, and then test the feeling in your thumb and fingers. Your grip and pinch strength may also be tested. During the examination, your doctor will record the locations of nodules and bands on your palm. Using a special device, he or she will measure the amount of contracture in your fingers. Your doctor may also measure the range of motion in your fingers to determine whether there is limitation in your flexion. Your doctor will refer back to these measurements throughout your treatment to determine whether the disease is progressing.
There is no way to stop or cure Dupuytren’s contracture. However, it is not dangerous. Dupuytren’s contracture usually progresses very slowly and may not become troublesome for years. It may never progress beyond lumps in the palm. If the condition progresses, nonsurgical treatment, such as corticosteroid injections, may help to slow the disease. If the disease is progressing over time, surgery or an injection to release the cord may be recommended. After surgery, elevating your hand above your heart and gently moving your fingers help to relieve pain, swelling and stiffness. Physical therapy may be helpful during recovery after surgery. Specific exercises can help strengthen your hands and help you move your fingers.