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Can You Reverse Dupuytren's Contracture?

December 13, 2020

The simple answer is no. Dupuytren’s contracture is a progressive condition, meaning that the symptoms will continue to worsen over time.

Many people who have been struck by this condition have wondered how to reverse dupuytren's contracture. Unfortunately at the present moment there is no known cure for this condition, though there are many effective treatment options to ease symptoms.

What is Dupuytren's contracture?

 

 

Pronounced (doo-pwe-TRENZ), it is a deformity in the hand that begins with mild symptoms and continues to develop over many years. It occurs when the layers of tissue beneath the skin of the palm of your hand thicken and form stubborn lumps or knots.

These small nodules eventually become connected and form a dense cord that limits the range of motion of your hand and fingers. The fingers become bent forward permanently in what can be an incredibly uncomfortable position. 

Once the fingers are bent, it becomes very difficult to use them. In most cases of Dupuytren's contracture it is the pinky and ring fingers which are affected. 

Though these may seem like relatively unimportant fingers, they still serve an important role in many daily activities most people take for granted. Actions such as shaking hands, manipulating everyday objects or even putting on gloves become nearly impossible to accomplish when your fingers cannot be straightened fully.

Interestingly, research has shown that Dupuytren's contracture mainly affects men of Eastern and Northern European countries. 

Though there is no cure, there are several treatment options you can seek to slow the progress of this condition and find relief from its symptoms. 

How Will I Know If I Have Dupuytren's contracture?

If you believe you have Dupuytren's contracture, go see your doctor. He or she will try to determine if this is what you have by first feeling the palm of your hand to see how much the tissue has thickened up. 

They will probably use another method called the tabletop test, in which they will ask you to place your hand, palm facing down, on the table. A healthy hand will be able to lie flat, whereas one with Dupuytren's contracture will not, even if you apply a lot of pressure. 

What Should I Do If I’ve Been Diagnosed With Dupuytren’s Contracture?

If your case of Dupuytren's contracture is still in the mild, early stages, your doctor will recommend some treatments that can help slow the onset of Dupuytren's contracture and control its progress with some simple changes to your daily routine and non-invasive measures. 

One suggestion is to avoid gripping objects too tightly. You can build up some padding around the handles of everyday objects like knives or tools by using insulation or another cushion and taping it on. This will allow you to hold and handle the object without straining your hand. 

Some experts also recommend using padded gloves which will alleviate some strain on your hand as you hold objects. 

Stretching is another technique that has shown some promise in delaying the progression of Dupuytren's contracture. It can be done in conjunction with other non-surgical methods such as the ones listed above. 

There are also people who’ve tried using splints to hold the hand in an outstretched position and to loosen the tightened tissue and to slow the contraction of the hand.

Some have experimented with applying vitamin E oil to the affected area, though this has come with mixed results. 

Aside from the Vitamin E oil, there is a cream on the market,Dupuytrensco, that is specifically made for Dupuytren's contracture. It is made from all-natural ingredients, including Vitamin E, as well as arnica, sunflower oil and aloe vera. These ingredients possess anti-inflammatory properties. It has brought relief to many users, but studies have been inconclusive as of yet.

Though these strategies may bring some short-term comfort, none have been shown to fully halt the progress of Dupuytren's contracture and your hand may continue to seize up.

What Medical Treatments Are Available For Dupuytren's contracture?

Many doctors encourage their patients to seek the least invasive treatment available. In some cases, the condition does not progress very quickly and does not impair your ability to go about your daily activities. In a mild case such as this, a doctor would likely urge restraint and tell you to wait and see if the symptoms worsen, recommending the simple strategies listed above.  

Many of the treatment methods require the removal or loosening up of the thickened cords that pull the fingers downward. Your doctor will select one that suits you based on the severity of the problem and your medical history. Here is a list of some of the more heavy-duty treatments for Dupuytren's contracture.

Needling

Needling is a method that, as you might expect, uses a needle that punctures the skin of the hand in an attempt to poke holes in the thickened cord of tissue or nodule that is behind the contraction. The idea is to break down the cord in order to loosen up the hand. 

If the tissue tightens up again after treatment, the procedure can be repeated. 

It is a relatively painless method compared to surgery. The doctor can target several fingers in a single treatment and there is no large incision. It is a simple technique that doesn’t require physical therapy after. The biggest drawback is that certain areas cannot be reached because they are too close to delicate tendons or nerves.

Enzyme Injections

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently approved a new treatment known as Xiaflex that has shown promise in helping people with Dupuytren’s contracture. The idea is to inject this enzyme into the tightened tissue in the palm of the affected hand in order to soften the tissue and break down the cord. This works on a similar principle to needling. 

 

 

After the injection, the doctor will attempt to weaken the thickened cord by massaging and manipulating it and getting the patient to straighten their fingers. As with needling, it is a relatively pain-free procedure compared when compared with surgery. There is very little healing and recovery after this treatment. 

The main disadvantage, just like with needling, is that it may be difficult to target all the affected areas if important tendons and nerves are in the way. 

To date, very few medical institutions offer this treatment. 

Steroid Injections

Steroids are incredibly powerful substances that aid in injury recovery and have anti-inflammatory properties. These treatments, when injected directly in one of the thickened cords or nodules, seem to be helpful. 

So far, researchers believe that these treatments are more effective in shrinking the hardened nodules in the early stages of the disease when symptoms are still mild. They have also been shown to slow the progress of the condition, but if you are already in an advanced stage of the condition the steroids will not straighten an already contracted finger. 

Radiation Therapy

Some physicians have been experimenting with using low doses of radiation to loosen the tissue that has tightened and alleviate the symptoms. 

There have been some studies of this method that have shown promise in slowing the progress of this condition though more research is needed. 

Surgery

Finally, the most drastic option on our list. Doctors will try to restrict their use of surgery to people with the most severe symptoms, when the use of their hand is highly limited. 

Surgery is a more complete treatment than needling or injections as it completely removes the affected tissue in the palm of your hand. The results are generally long lasting, however, surgical patients require extensive physical therapy to regain the movement in their hand. The incision can also be quite painful and require a long time to heal. 

In the most difficult cases a second surgery can be needed. If the affected tissue is removed and the condition continues to progress, a specialized surgeon will again remove the thickened cords and nodules as well as the skin that is attached to the problematic tissue. If this is the case, the patient will require a skin graft to cover and protect the wound. 

This is the most invasive of all the possible treatments and is only used in severe cases. It requires a very long recovery period and physical therapy that usually continues for months.  

Conclusion

Though dupuytren’s contracture is not a life threatening condition it can severely hamper day-to-day life and in extreme cases be debilitating for those who suffer from it. 

There is no known cure as of yet, but there are many treatment options out there that are known to bring relief to patients and can delay the progress of the condition.  

So no, it is not possible to reverse duputren's contracture, but there are ways to limit the damage it does, from lifestyle strategies to more serious surgeries. 

If you believe you have gotten this disease, talk to your doctor who can recommend a course of action for you to stop your dupuytren’s contracture in its tracks.


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