What is the difference between Dupuytren syndrome and Dupuytren contracture?

Dupuytren Syndrome

What is the difference between Dupuytren contracture and Dupuytren syndrome?

Occasionally the term Dupuytren syndrome appears when researching the subject of Dupuytren contracture.   It might appear to those who do not know the actual meaning of the term syndrome that a Dupuytren syndrome might be something different – perhaps less serious or more serious – than the more conventional terms of Dupuytren contracture or Dupuytren disease.

A good place to start is with a discussion of these different words.

Syndrome – generally, a collection or group of signs (objective findings that are observed by someone else) and symptoms (subjective complaints that are felt or experienced that cannot be proven by the person who is feeling them) that are known to commonly appear together, but without a known cause to explain their occurrence.

Sometimes the word syndrome is applied to a condition or disorder when there is strong agreement about a cause, when there are multiple alternative or contributing factors that it is not possible to isolate the cause to one single factor.  This is true of Dupuytren contracture since it is commonly agreed that there is a strong genetic cause of the condition there are also several contributing and overlapping issues that cloud the causation of the problem (liver cirrhosis, diabetes, trauma, lung disease, etc.)

Because of the way the word syndrome is used, laypeople might get the impression that a syndrome is something less serious than a disease or that it is a made-up or imagined problem.  That is not the case.  The last part of the definition explains that the most important point is that a syndrome will not have a known cause or reason to explain the problem.

Some examples:  Carpal tunnel syndrome, Gulf War syndrome, Premenstrual syndrome, Reye’s syndrome, Down’s syndrome, etc.

Disease – a health disorder in a system, organ or part of the body that adversely affects the body’s function, and fulfills at least two of the following criteria:

    1. Known group of signs and symptoms
    2. Known and identified cause
    3. Consistent anatomic or physiologic changes due to the disease

In regard to Dupuytren contracture is simple to see that the term Dupuytren disease is accurate since it does fulfill all of the definition requirements.

Contracture – a chronic and unrelenting state of tightening or shortening of muscle, tendon, ligament, or skin that prevents a normal range of movement of the involved area.

Therefore, there is nothing wrong with the term Dupuytren syndrome, it is a legitimate term for this problem; the same can be said for the term Dupuytren disease.   All of these are legitimate terms to use.  However, on this website we have maintained the use of the term Dupuytren contracture as the preferred term because it is a more descriptive term that accurately defines the palmar and finger contracture as the central aspect of this hand condition.

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