Why is Dupuytren's disease also called the "Viking disease"?

Dupuytren's disease is more common in Northern Europe, especially in Scandinavia, and it is believed to have been started with the Vikings. As the Vikings traveled, they spread the disease to parts of Northern Europe and further beyond.1

What is Dupuytren´s disease?

Dupuytren's disease is a progressive condition which affects the connective tissue in the palm of the hand and the fingers. Dupuytren's disease can lead to the finger being permanently bent inward.2,3 This is called Dupuytren's contracture. Once contracture has occurred, the affected finger often impacts on the ability to do everyday tasks such as driving, face washing, dressing or shaking hands.2

Where can I find out more about Dupuytren´s disease?

Talk to your doctor, who will tell you more and give you advice on what to do if you suspect that you might have Dupuytren's disease.

What is Dupuytren´s contracture?

Dupuytren's contracture is one of the potential symptoms of Dupuytren's disease when the disease progresses. Contracture is when the finger becomes permanently bent inward towards the palm of the hand. Approximately 25% of people with the disease will go on to develop Dupuytren's contracture.4,5

Can I get Dupuytren´s disease in any other part of my body?

In most people, the condition is only apparent in the hands. In very rare cases the toes and the soles of feet can be affected by similar disease known as Ledderhose disease. In even rarer cases the knuckles can be affected, called Garrod's knuckle pads, and the penis – which is called Peyronie's disease. Read more about Peyronie's disease here.6

Is there a cure for Dupuytren´s disease?

Currently, there is no cure for Dupuytren's disease. For patients with Dupuytren's contracture, there are a variety of surgical and non-surgical treatments available. Which treatment is used, depends on the stage and severity of the contracture, the patient's age and general health, the patient's occupation, or the status of the skin on the palm of the hand. It is important to treat the contracture, the longer the contracture prevails the greater is the chance of it becoming permanent. The ligaments can become fixed in the contracted position.2,3

What happens if Dupuytren's disease goes untreated?

Most patients with Dupuytren's disease do not need treatment and can just be closely monitored until symptoms change or worsen, known as watchful waiting.2 However, the condition will return to a less advanced stage without treatment in approximately 10% of patients.2,7

How does Dupuytren´s contracture impact a person´s life?

Dupuytren's contracture can often interfere with a person’s ability to carry out everyday tasks that many of us take for granted such as driving, brushing hair, dressing or shaking hands. Wearing gloves and using a keyboard are also made more difficult by the bent position of the fingers.2

Can Dupuytren´s contracture occur in any finger?

For some people, Dupuytren's contracture can develop in more than one finger - the ring and little fingers are the most commonly affected by the disease.2 Dupuytren's disease is also bilateral, meaning it can affect either hand, or in some cases both hands.2,7

How do I know if I have Dupuytren´s disease?

You should always seek advice from your doctor. However, the first signs of Dupuytren's disease could be thickening or dimpling of the skin, or the appearance of small growths or lumps of tissue in the palm of the hand. As the disease progresses, it might be possible to see the shape of the cord under the skin, stretching from the palm of the hand to the affected finger. If contracture has occurred, the affected finger will look like it is being pulled towards the palm of the hand, is not possible to completely straighten it, and it might be getting in the way of, for example, putting your hand in your pocket.2



  1. Adrian E. Flatt Proc (Bayl Univ Med Cent). 2001 Oct;14(4):378–384.
  2. Townley WA et al. BMJ. 2006;332:397–400.
  3. Bayat A and McGrouther DA. Ann R Coll Surg Engl. 2006;88:3–8.
  4. Gudmundsen KG et al. J Clin Epidemiol. 2000;291-296.
  5. Crean SM et al. J Hand Surg 2011;36E(5)396–407.
  6. Rayan et al. Hand Clinics. 1999;15(1):87-96.
  7. Trojian TH and Chu SM. Am Fam Physician 2007;76:86-9.