Have you ever imagined yourself in a situation where the only thing your hand feels is pain? The layers of skin and tissue in your hand grows tighter and tighter with each week, a finger or two is bent out of proportion, and at the moment, all you know is unbearable discomfort.
This condition is known as Dupuytren’s Contracture.
What exactly is Dupuytren’s Contracture?
To put things in a more descriptive manner, the term “contracture” is a nasty process that affects your hand whereby the skin and tissue form a layer of knots under the palm. This can take years to build up and eventually leads to a thick cord being formed that causes a finger or two to be bent uncomfortably.
The bend in the fingers may not be reversible, and it is usually the fingers furthest away from the thumb that are prone to shape changes. This makes it difficult to grasp items and use the hand in ways that most people take for granted. Stiffness and the loss of flexibility worsen over time as the palm thickens and tightens. This condition generally grows worse over time. There is no cure, so taking preventative measures and trying to comfort the knots in the hand is the best solution.
There are a few options for non-surgical treatments for Dupuytren’s Contracture but a extremely invasive surgery is commonplace for sufferes.
What are the warning signs?
- It is often mistaken for a callus.
- There is a burning and itching sensation in the tender part of the palm.
- The affected area looks like a bruise healing.
- Hard lumps in the form of nodules are formed.
Factors that increase the risk
- It is more likely to affect men rather than women.
- Dupuytren’s contracture is more likely to affect people with ages 50 and above.
- Genetics and family history play a large factor.
- It has been researched that people who smoke and drink are more likely to contract the disease.
- Further research shows that diabetes increases the chances of being affected by the disease.
How to treat in early stages
As painful as it sounds, this non-surgical treatment for Dupuytren’s contracture is very effective. The needle is pushed into the skin to rupture and break the cord of tissue that moves the finger. The shortening and hardening of the tissue may occur again, but this technique can be repeated.
It cannot be done on all areas of the finger, as damage may be done to a nerve or a tendon. There is also no need for a cut on the finger. At the end of the process, there is a very little need to exercise the fingers.
This process is done with a certain type of enzyme being injected into the taut cord of the palm to ease and incapacitate it, so that it can later be operated on by a doctor. The doctor would later be able to easily align the fingers. An enzyme that has been accepted by the FDA to use in this circumstance is the collagenase clostridium histolyticum, also known as xiaflex. This technique has the same advantages and disadvantages as the needling method.
Heat, Ultrasound and Splinting
There are several options on the market for tools offering ultrasound, heat and stretching. The most commonly used device is the Dupuytren’s Wand. The stretch is typically controlled by an elastic tape “splint” offering a strong recoiling effect to encourage the finger to remain in a straightened position. Unlike a normal splint, Dupuytren’s Tape allows the user to grasp objects normal as it does not restrict the closing of the hand.
Surgery is the preferred method of treatment for those in a later stage of disease. If the fingers have extremely restricted functioning, the affected tissue in the palm would be removed. The problem with this method is that recovery after surgery takes longer and exercise of the fingers would be required. It has a more conclusive and lasting effect compared to the other methods. In addition, surgery does not guarantee non-reoccurrence.
Dupuytren’s contracture is a nasty bit of work that can prove to be more than painful. It is a tough condition that can affect a person’s day to day activities, which is why it is so important to be educated on the topic. The whole idea is to gain awareness, look for the signs, and to act quickly in order to prevent or delay potential problems in the future.