Taking Care of an Ill Loved One

Diagnosed With Dupuytren's Contracture? What Should You Know About This Condition?

If you've recently been provided a tentative diagnosis of Dupuytren's contracture, you may be relieved to finally give a name to the gradually worsening pain and stiffening you've been experiencing in one or both hands for years. Both Dupuytren's contracture and its lower-body equivalent, Ledderhose's disease, are generally benign but can lead to functional problems and serious pain over time if left untreated. Read on to learn more about these conditions and what you'll need to do to find some relief.

What Causes Dupuytren's Contracture and Ledderhose's Disease?

Dupuytren's contracture is marked by pain and stiffness in the fingers, often accompanied by an inability to fully straighten one or more fingers or bend them in certain directions. This stiffness can make it tough to perform tasks that once required little to no thought, from removing change or keys from your pocket to opening a tight-lidded jar. 

Meanwhile, Ledderhose's disease (or plantar fibromatosis) affects the feet, creating small nodules that gradually increase the pain and pressure you experience while walking or standing. Eventually these nodules grow deep within your feet, making it hard for you to avoid pressing on them even when you shift your weight to other parts of your foot. Left untreated, this condition could leave you unable to walk even a few steps without serious pain.

Both conditions begin through a thickening of the skin on the palm of the hand or sole of the foot. Eventually, this thicker skin develops cords or nodules beneath the surface. constricting movement and making pressure painful. Doctors aren't yet sure what causes some to develop these conditions, and they often develop so slowly over a course of years that many don't seek treatment until they've already become debilitated by the side effects. 

What Are Your Most Effective Treatment Options?

When it comes to treating Dupuytren's contracture or Ledderhose's disease, surgery often isn't the best option. Because the nodules and fibrous tissues that are causing your pain and stiffness are located so close to the tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that allow your hands and feet to function properly, and because they don't often have clear, easily-visible borders like cysts and other types of growths, they can be tough to remove surgically without causing additional complications. 

Fortunately, radiation treatment has been shown to be effective in reducing the size and spread of nodules, cords, and lesions associated with these two ailments, and can often leave you relatively pain-free and leading a much better quality of life after a short treatment regimen. Visit a Dupuytren's Disease Support Group for more help.