Dupuytren’s contracture is a thickening of the tissue beneath the skin of the palm of your hand, known as the palmar fascia. The condition may take years to develop. Thickening starts slowly, but over time it can cause the fingers of your hand to curl into your palm. This curling inward is called contraction. The degree of contraction varies from person to person.

Any finger can be affected, but usually it's the ring and pinky fingers. You might not be able to straighten them. This is usually not painful, but it can make it hard to grip with your hand, shake hands, or put your hand in your pocket. The condition often affects both hands, but usually one hand more than the other.

The cause of Dupuytren’s contracture is not known, but it's not the result of injury or overuse. Men are four times more likely to be affected than women.

Other risk factors include:

  • Being older than 50
  • Having a family history of the condition
  • Being of Northern European ancestry
  • Being a heavy drinker or smoker
  • Having certain medical conditions, including diabetes, epilepsy, thyroid disease, tuberculosis, cirrhosis, or a history of heart attack

Signs and symptoms of Dupuytren’s contracture, which start slowly and progress over time, usually develop in this order:

  • Stiffness and puckering in the palm of the hand or the palm side of a finger
  • Formation of one or more tender lumps, called nodules, on the palm or finger
  • Changing of nodules into painless, thick bands of tissue
  • Curling of the fingers into the palm of the hand

People who have just thickening or nodules may not need treatment. If the contracture is getting worse and making it hard to use your hand, several treatment options are available that may slow down progression of the condition and release the finger contractions.