Dupuytren’s disease is some times called the ‘Viking Disease’ because it is most commonly found in populations of the lands which were invaded by the Vikings.
Dupuytren’s disease is a common condition, which usually arises in middle age or later, in northern Europeans, being more common in men than women.
Underneath the skin of the palm and extending into each finger is a sheet of fibrous tissue, called fascia. This behaves like a shield to protect the delicate structures underneath from the minor trauma of daily life.
The shield also anchors itself to the overlying skin, so that the palm skin provides a stable base and doesn’t slip when you grip things. But in some susceptible people, groups of cells in the fascia sheet develop little lumps. These lumps can develop into cords, the fibres within them contract, which pulls the finger down into the palm. It mostly affects the ring and little fingers.
The largest group with this disease are those with a family history. But there is thought to be an association with liver malfunction, anti-epileptic medication when taken over a considerable time, and it is also more common in diabetics.
There is nothing you can do to delay the advance of the disease and medical intervention is only necessary once the hand-function becomes impaired. When a person can no longer place their hand flat on a tabletop, we usually recommend they are treated.
When all four fingers have severe Dupuytren’s contracture treatment for this is difficult and is less likely to have a good result.
Most often the condition starts in late middle age and progresses slowly. The more aggressive form of the disease affects people at a much younger age and advances rapidly.