My ring finger bends in towards my palm, and I can't extend it fully. Is this condition common, and will it go away on its own?

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My ring finger bends in towards my palm, and I can't extend it fully. It now looks like the crooked hand of a witch - too bad it isn't Halloween. Is this condition common, and will it go away on its own?

Dr. L. Scott Levin, with Inquirer staff writer Leila Haghighat

The bending of a finger or thumb toward the palm may be caused by a condition called Dupuytren's contracture, which occurs when tissue surrounding hand muscles tightens. It's often a hereditary disease and is common in patients whose family origins are in the British Isles.

The condition is usually painless, so we typically treat it only when patients are having trouble extending their fingers, shaking hands, or doing other daily activities.

There are several ways to treat Dupuytren's disease. For mild to moderate conditions, we can use a new treatment that involves injecting an enzyme into the affected area. Weakening the stiffened tissue then allows us to straighten the finger or thumb.

For more severe cases, there are a few surgical options. One is an outpatient, noninvasive procedure in which the tightened tissue is cut using a hypodermic needle. Another is surgical removal of the problematic tissue, usually by a hand surgeon.

After surgery, patients typically require hand therapy to regain full motion and function.

If your symptoms persist, you should consult your primary-care physician or an orthopedic hand specialist.

Regardless of treatment, however, Dupuytren's disease often returns in varying degrees. Treatments provide relief of debilitating symptoms, but do not cure the disease.

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