Is Dupuytren Contracture the same as Trigger Finger?
Are Dupuytren contracture and trigger finger the same thing?
The answer to that question is no.
Upon first glance, these two things might seem very similar, but they are actually very different medical conditions. In fact, the only similarity is that they both affect finger flexion.
Trigger finger involves the tendons, and Dupuytren contractor involves the tissue. Trigger finger is usually brought about by finger injuries, but Dupuytren comes about a little more mysteriously. Medical professionals aren’t entirely sure what causes Dupuytren.
So let’s spend a bit of time breaking these two conditions down.
Take a look at this guide to find the differences between trigger finger and Dupuytren and to learn how each condition can be treated.
What Is Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger is also known as stenosing tenosynovitis, and it causes one or more of your fingers to get stuck in a bent position.
But doesn’t make them completely stuck. People with trigger finger can usually still straighten their fingers, though it may take more work than normal and will make a snapping or clicking sound, similar to the trigger of a gun being pulled.
When your finger tendons pass from your arm through the palm of your hand, they are surrounded by a protective fibrous sheath.
Trigger finger occurs when inflammation narrows the sheath around the tendons and a nodule forms, usually from injury. Flexing your fingers forces the nodule to slide through the narrow sheath with a snap.
This is most common in the index and middle finger and the thumb (then called trigger thumb).
What is Dupuytren Contracture?
Dupuytren also causes one or more of your fingers to be stuck in a bent position, but that’s where the similarities stop.
Dupuytren can take years to develop completely, and it’s a hand deformity that affects the tissue in the palm of your hand.
This condition starts when that tissue starts to form knots under the skin of your palm. As these knots continue to form, they will create a cord that pulls one or two fingers into a bent position.
Unlike trigger finger, these bent fingers can’t be fully straightened again when this happens. Because of this, everyday activities, even ones as simple as shaking someone’s hand, become difficult.
This condition is most common in the pink and ring finger.
Symptoms of Trigger Finger
Though trigger finger is most common in the first two fingers and thumb, it can also develop in other fingers. More than one finger and even both hands can be affected at the same time.
Most people experience trigger finger in the dominant hand. Here are some of the symptoms that come along with trigger finger.
- Your finger clicks when you move it
- Stiffness, especially when you first wake up
- A bump at the base of the finger
- Finger sticking in a bent position then popping out of it
- Bent finger you can’t straighten
You will most likely notice trigger finger symptoms when you’re grasping objects or flexing your fingers in the morning.
Symptoms of Dupuytren Contracture
These symptoms might be harder to notice because they can form over multiple years. Because the onset is slow, you might not realize you have these symptoms until they are more pronounced.
Here are some of the things you should look out for.
- Thickening skin on the palm
- Dimpled or puckered skin on the palm
- A sensitive lump of tissue forms on the palm (usually isn’t painful)
- A noticeable cord forms under the skin that reaches your fingers
- Fingers that are pulled toward the palm
This can also affect any finger on either hand, though it is much rarer in your index finger and thumb. If someone has it in both hands, one hand is normally worse than the other.
What Causes Trigger Finger?
Trigger finger is usually caused by overuse and injury.
In some cases, all it takes is one large injury to bring about trigger finger, but sometimes it forms from small or repeated injuries.
What Causes Dupuytren Contracture?
There is no clear cause for Dupuytren. This condition doesn’t seem to be connected with any injuries.
Who’s More Likely to Get Trigger Finger?
Anyone can suffer from trigger finger, but it’s more likely to occur in females and people with diabetes. People with jobs that require gripping repetitively are more likely to get trigger finger than people who don’t make those same hand movements as often.
Who’s More Likely to Get Dupuytren Contracture?
Although medical professionals still don’t know what exactly causes Dupuytren, they do have some ideas of who is at more risk to experience this condition.
It is most commonly found in European men who are older than 50. It also seems to run in a family line. In other words, people with family members that have had Dupuytren are more likely to get it themselves.
Like trigger finger, people with diabetes are also more likely to get Dupuytren.
Can You Have Trigger Finger and Dupuytren Contracture at the Same Time?
These two conditions are not the same thing, but a person can experience both trigger finger and Dupuytren contracture at the same time.
How Is Trigger Finger Diagnosed?
In most cases, doctors don’t have to perform any serious tests. They can diagnose your hand after a simple physical exam.
This exam might include you opening your hands and closing your hands, and the doctor will check for things like smooth motion, locking fingers, and places of pain.
The doctor will probably look for a lump in your palm near the base of the afflicted finger.
After the doctor looks for these symptoms, they will be able to diagnose you with trigger finger.
How Is Dupuytren Contracture Diagnosed?
The diagnoses for Dupuytren is also fairly simple and doesn’t require anything elaborate. Again, all the doctor has to do is perform a physical exam on your hand.
Your doctor will look for common symptoms of Dupuytren, such as dimpled or puckered skin on your palm, tissue knots in your palm, and fingers that are locked in a bent position.
If you’re in the early stages of Dupuytren, the doctor may have you flatten your hand against a tabletop to see how far your fingers can straighten. Inability to straighten your fingers completely is a sure sign you have Dupuytren.
Finger Trigger Treatments
The treatments for trigger finger depend on the severity of your particular case. If the trigger finger hasn’t progressed to a serious stage, the doctor might suggest some finger and hand therapy.
This could include things like:
- A finger splint to wear at night to help your tendons relax
- Stretching exercises to keep the mobility of your fingers
- Rest to avoid overusing or injuring your fingers
If the trigger finger is more severe, your doctor might try a steroid injection. They will inject this medication into the constricted sheath, which will help it relax and provide smoother movement. An injection like this can fix the problem for over a year.
In some cases, your doctor might also try a percutaneous release. This means the doctor will, after numbing your finger, insert a needle into the tissue and break the nodule that’s preventing free movement.
Lastly, there is also an option for surgery. During this surgery, the doctor will create a tiny incision on your finger and cut open the damaged sheath.
Dupuytren Contracture Treatments
If you don’t have a serious case of Dupuytren, you may not need any treatment at all. As long as your condition isn’t making it difficult to perform daily tasks and has no pain, your hand may do better on its own.
However, more serious cases require treatments that break apart the knotted tissue and the cord that’s pulling the fingers into a bent position. There are several different ways to do this.
A doctor will insert a needle into your palm and use it to break apart the knotted tissue at the base of your afflicted fingers. This is not a permanent fix because the cord will often reform. However, the treatment can be repeated many times.
Doctors may recommend this treatment because it doesn’t take a lot of time to heal or recuperate the hand. It can also be done on several fingers at the same time, so if you have a lot of fingers affected by Dupuytren, this may be a good option.
These enzymes can be injected into the cord of tissue in your palm. They will then weaken the cord, which makes it easier for your doctor to move your fingers and break the cord.
Doctors use this treatment for people with advanced forms of Dupuytren. During the surgery, they will remove the knotted tissue in your hand. This treatment lasts longer than both needling and enzyme injections.
This surgery does require physical therapy and a longer recovery time than other methods.
If You Notice Any Symptoms, Go See a Doctor
Whether you experience symptoms of trigger finger or Dupuytren contracture, you should make an appointment with a doctor right away. They will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and a medical plan for the future.
Experience finger problems that don’t seem to match either of these conditions? Check out this guide to make sure you don’t have nerve damage.