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I was diagnosed with Dupuytren's disease. How bad is it?

October 06, 2020

Being diagnosed with a disease that you don't know can be frightening, especially when it has an uncommon name such as Dupuytren's disease. You are starting to feel changes in your hand, suspect arthritis as a possible cause, and the doctor told you it is Dupuytren's contracture instead.

Do you have to worry about it? Does it have a treatment? What will happen in the future?

Dupuytren's disease treatments

Dupuytren's disease is very different from arthritis in many ways. It is not a joint or skeletal problem. Instead, it is a problem in the outer covering of the hand muscles, called palmar fascia. This is a degenerative problem that worsens over time, but it is not as harmful as rheumatoid arthritis. Actually, if you catch the disease early, you can treat it successfully and without a problem.

The usual treatment is surgery, but other treatment options include an injection that softens the palmar tissue, known as collagenase injections, and alternative therapies that include radiotherapy and lipofilling. Depending on the stage of the disease and your doctor's clinical experience, you could be recommended to go for one or the other.

Surgery complications are not very common, but there's always a chance of injuring tendons, nerves, and arteries. The most common complication after surgery is hematoma, bleeding, swelling, and pain. Naturally, you want to care for your wound to prevent infections and other problems, too.

In most cases, treating the disease at an early stage saves you from having complications such as numbness, a limited range of motion, or chronic pain syndrome. In this regard, Dupuytren’s disease is relatively mild as compared to other musculoskeletal conditions.

Recurrence after surgery

After undergoing surgery, there's always a chance of recurrence. The disease may come back after a while. The most common type of recurrence is the appearance of new cords or nodules in the same area. Sometimes the recurrence of the disease only causes a very mild limitation of movement in the hand.

Thus, some doctors consider recurrences a purely technical problem and only perform a new surgery when it is causing limitations to the patient. In most cases, patients are still satisfied with the first surgery outcome, and no further step is required to improve their quality of life.

How bad is it?

Do not neglect Dupuytren's disease, especially after diagnosing the condition. Doing so may increase the chance of having severe limitations of movements and surgery complications. If you treat your condition as recommended by your hand surgeon and follow instructions, it is possible to regain your hand movement with a very low risk of debilitating recurrences.

There are also creams for Dupuytren's disease, and some patients report improvements in their symptoms before and after surgery. Similar to the recent collagenase injection, we may also have future treatment options for Dupuytren's disease without surgery. But so far, most hand surgeons recommend surgical procedures as the best way to improve the symptoms and the patient's quality of life.

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