Dupuytren's contracture (Dupuytren's disease) occurs when cords of shortened connective tissue prevent you from fully extending your finger.

It's not known why this happens, but there are several factors that make it more likely to develop.

Genetics seems to be the most significant factor, as 4 to 7 in every 10 people with the condition have a family history of it.

It's also more common and often more severe in men over the age of 50.


As a significant number of people with Dupuytren’s contracture have other family members with the condition, it's thought to be an autosomal dominant disorder that can be passed on by your parents.

Autosomal dominant means you only need to inherit the gene that causes the condition from one of your parents, rather than both.

Dupuytren's contracture is also more common in people of northern European descent, which suggests that genes play a role in the condition.

Read more about genetics and genetic inheritance.

Other possible factors

There are a number of health problems that may also increase your chances of developing Dupuytren’s contracture:  

  • diabetes – a long-term health condition that causes a person's blood sugar level to become too high
  • treatment for epilepsy with medications called anticonvulsants
  • heavy drinking or smoking

However, many people with Dupuytren’s contracture aren't affected by these problems and some studies suggest that the link isn't significant.

A previous injury to the hand – such as a broken wrist – has also been associated with an increased risk of Dupuytren's contracture, but it's not clear how this may lead to the condition.

Dupuytren's contracture is generally not thought to be related to manual work or using vibrating tools, although some recent studies suggest there may be a link.

Page last reviewed: 29/05/2015
Next review due: 29/05/2018