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Massage Today
July, 2007, Vol. 07, Issue 07

Dupuytren’s Disease

By Ben Benjamin, PhD

Question: True or False? Dupuytren's disease can force the fingers into permanent flexion.

Answer: True.

Dupuytren's disease (also known as Dupuytren's contracture) is a condition in which the palmar fascia slowly thickens and scars.

In advanced cases, the fingers become permanently fixed in a flexed position. Dupuytren's tends to run in families and most commonly occurs in men over 50 - particularly in those with epilepsy, alcoholism, diabetes or liver disease. The cause is unknown, but it might be exacerbated by a trauma to the hand or the use of tools that vibrate.

Typically, the first sign of Dupuytren's is the appearance of a small, painless nodule on the palm of the hand, just proximal to the fourth and fifth digits. As the disease worsens, the nodule develops into a cord-like band that affects the rest of the fingers.

There is no known cure for this condition. Massage therapy combined with stretching often makes the person more comfortable and might slow the progression of the disease. Other options include surgery and needle aponeurotomy, a brief procedure that uses a small hypodermic needle to divide and release the affected bands of tissue. Both treatments often are effective temporarily, but after several years, the contracture recurs in about 50 percent of cases.

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