A person looks at his hand; the palm facing up and forms his hand into a claw. He pays particular attention to his fingers and the feel of the tendons, ligaments, and muscles as he forms a claw. He imagines that this is happening to him over time. He has no control over it and cannot stop it. Unlike people with Dupuytren’s disease, he can straighten out his hands. I struggle with Dupuytren’s condition in both of my hands.
In order to empathize with the struggles of a Dupuytren’s patient, people need to be informed about the disease. It is important to understand the diagnosis, treatment, outcomes, and history of the condition that leaves people with malformed hands.
“Dupuytren’s contracture originated with the Vikings, who spread it throughout Northern Europe and beyond” as they plundered, raped, settled, and intermarried (Flatt). Dr. Charles Eaton, a member of the board of trustees of the Dupuytren’s Foundation, indicates that although “it’s been described as a Viking or Scotch-Irish disease,” Dupuytren’s condition is found in people of European descent wherever they originated on the continent (Eaton). Millions of people suffer from the disease today. However, the condition was reported by Guillaume Dupuytren in 1831. “Getting to Grips with Celtic Hand”).
Baron Guillaume Dupuytren, French anatomist and military surgeon is best known today for his treatment Dupuytren’s disease. He performed the first corrective surgery in 1831 (“Sticky Finger”).
Treatments such as surgery benefit 27 million patients in the United States and Europe. Famous people who have suffered from Dupuytren’s condition include playwright Samuel Beckett, actor David McCallum, President Ronald Reagan, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had surgery for the disease at age sixty (“Seven Famous People with Dupuytren’s”).
Dupuytren’s contracture develops slowly over a long period. It may begin as a small, tender lump in the palm. There is a thickening of tough tissue in the palm and fingers. Tight bands that may cause the fingers to bend toward the palm are present. The ring and pinkie fingers are most often affected. When the fingers become bent, they may interfere with the use of the hand in daily life (“Managing Dupuytren’s Contracture ”).
A person may lose the ability to carry out the activities of daily independent living such as shaking hands, putting things in pockets, zipping up clothing, typing on a keyboard, and opening doors. People with Dupuytren’s find it difficult to do these simple daily activities even after surgery because the hands do not return to normal. The progress of the disease varies from person to person (PDL Labs). There is no way to halt or cure the disease, no matter how it comes about.
Eaton writes, “The single biggest risk factor for developing Dupuytren (sic) disease is a parent or sibling with it.” In other words, having a close relative with the condition is...