This factsheet is for people who have Dupuytren’s disease, or who would like information about it.
Dupuytren’s disease is a progressive condition that causes nodules (lumps) in the palm and fingers. It can progress to cause the fingers to be pulled towards the palm of the hand.
About Dupuytren’s disease
In the UK, more than two million people are thought to have Dupuytren’s disease. It’s more common in people over 50, and especially in men. It particularly affects people from a northern European background and runs in families.
Symptoms of Dupuytren’s disease
Dupuytren’s disease begins with firm lumps or nodules forming in your palm, often in line with your fourth (ring) finger. These are caused by thickening of the layer of tissue just under the skin. These nodules aren’t usually painful.
About one person in three who has Dupuytren’s disease will find the nodules progress and increase in size to form rope-like cords that pull the finger towards the palm and prevent it straightening fully. Although it can look as if it’s your tendon causing this, in fact it’s the thickened layer of tissue below your skin causing the problem. Without treatment, one or more of your fingers may become fixed in a bent position. This process is known as contracture. The process of your fingers becoming contracted is usually slow, and happens over many months and years rather than within weeks.
Causes of Dupuytren’s disease
The cause of Dupuytren’s disease isn’t known but it appears to run in families. Other factors that seem to increase the chance of developing this condition are:
- being over 50
- being male (eight out of 10 people with this condition are male)
- being from a northern European descent
- having diabetes
- drinking excess alcohol
There is some evidence that the condition could be made worse by certain types of manual work, especially the use of vibrating tools. A one-off hand injury may, in rare cases, trigger the start of Dupuytren’s disease.
Diagnosis of Dupuytren’s disease
If you think you have contractures caused by Dupuytren’s disease and it’s affecting your hand function, see your doctor. He or she will ask about your symptoms and examine you. He or she may also ask you about your medical history.