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First it was a lump in my palm and now I can’t straighten my fingers

Information provided on the blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or offer treatment plans.

So why the picture of some random guy? Well, he’s not random. We have him to thank for Dupuytren’s contracture (he’s Dupuytren, in case you didn’t pick that up). Dupuytren’s is a potentially debilitating condition where your fingers slowly curl in towards your palm.

Do you know the two clear signs of Dupuytren’s contracture?

No? That’s okay.  You will after this, and you’ll know how to check for it.

Dupuytren’s contracture affects millions of people.  Essentially, it’s a benign (non cancerous) growth of fibrous tissue that you would notice at first in the palm of your hand as a small lump.

That lump can be mildly tender, and as you can imagine or may know, feeling a lump in your hand can be quite startling and disconcerting.

Most people notice that the tenderness goes away, but over time, though, the small lump in your palm can grow out into your fingers and slowly and permanently bend your fingers down towards the palm.

You may only have mild symptoms–an isolated painless lump in the palm of the hand, for example, or you may have extensive symptoms where all of the fingers and thumb are contracted down into the palm and cannot straighten out.

In cases where Dupuytren’s is extensive, you mat not be able to put a glove on, put your hand in your pocket or even shake hands as your fingers are permanently stuck down into your palm.

So what causes this to happen?

The exact cause of Dupuytrens contracture is not yet fully known.  We do know heredity can play a part, and the condition is more common in men of families of Scandinavian / northern European origin, but it can affect people of all backgrounds.

Alcohol consumption, diabetes, and seizure disorders can also play a part.  In most cases, however, patients do not have any risk factors.

When should you see a doctor?

Any time you notice a new lump in your hand, you should see your doctor.  That’s a given.

But lumps in the hand are very common, and the overwhelming majority of the time they are benign (non cancerous) conditions.  However, it is recommended that any new lump be evaluated by a physician to make sure it’s not a serious or cancerous condition.

How to check yourself for Dupuytren’s?

A simple test you can perform to determine if you do have it and need surgery is called the Tabletop Test.

Try placing your hand palm down completely flat on top of a table.  If you are unable to completely flatten your hand and fingers on the tabletop, the contracture is bad enough to consider surgery.

Waiting till your finger(s) are completely bent into your palm is strongly not advised because the results are not as predictable.

So, were you able to flatten your hand?  Great!  If not, do something about it.  There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have full function in your hand.

Would you like more information?

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Brian Bear, MD

Dr. Bear is a fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon specializing in upper extremity for OrthoIllinois. He's also a father and husband, and in his spare time, he enjoys being active and fishing.


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