Vikings Disease: Understanding Dupuytren’s Contracture

Viking's disease, or Dupuytren's contracture, is linked to genetics and environmental factors, primarily affecting those of Northern European descent.

Understanding Vikings Disease

Viking’s Disease, formally known as Dupuytren’s contracture, presents a fascinating study into a condition often connected with Northern European ancestry.

Here, we dissect its characteristics, origins, and its unmistakable presence in individuals of Scandinavia and beyond.

Definition and Synonyms

Vikings Disease, or Dupuytren’s contracture, is marked by gradual thickening of the palmar fascia resulting in the fingers bending towards the palm, often in a fixed position.

Alternately termed palmar fibromatosis, it gravitates towards historical roots with names such as Morbus Dupuytren and Celtic hand.

Causes and Risk Factors

Researchers attribute a blend of genetic variants and environmental factors as the cause of this disease.

Notable risk factors include a family history of the condition, age (predominantly affecting those over 50), and Northern European descent.

Lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and smoking also elevate the risk, as does having diabetes.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Individuals may notice nodules or a lump in the palm which progressively develop into cords pulling the fingers into a bent position.

Pain is not always present, but the loss of hand function is a critical symptom. Diagnosis usually requires a tabletop test, where one cannot lay the palm flat, affirming the presence of Viking’s Disease.


Dupuytren’s contracture shows a predilection for men more than women and is most common among those of Scandinavian or Northern European heritage.

Although it is often linked to the Vikings and hence named Viking Disease, studies indicate that the genetic predisposition could trace back to ancestral Neanderthals or Denisovans, as per recent findings.

It is far less common in non-Europeans, such as Africans.

Treatment and Management

A viking ship sails through stormy seas, with crew members managing their equipment and treatment supplies for vikings disease

Dupuytren’s contracture, often known as Viking’s Disease, has various treatments ranging from non-invasive options to surgical interventions.

The goals are to alleviate symptoms, manage pain, and improve hand function.

Each treatment plan is tailored to the individual’s condition severity and needs.

Non-Surgical Options

Non-surgical treatments are typically the first line of management for Dupuytren’s contracture.

They may include the use of enzymatic injections like collagenase, which can break down the cord of the tight tissue.

Steroid injections are sometimes used to reduce inflammation and discomfort. Radiation therapy may be considered for early-stage disease or for people with high risk of disease progression.

Additionally, needle aponeurotomy, a procedure where a needle is used to divide the fibrous tissue, can offer temporary relief.

For continued care, occupational or physical therapy can be beneficial in maintaining mobility of the fingers and hands.

Therapists might also recommend splinting to prevent further contracture.

Surgical Treatments

When non-surgical options are ineffective or if the contracture is severe, surgery may be required.

There are various surgical procedures available, like fasciectomy, during which the diseased tissue is excised.

For less invasive surgery, needle fasciotomy can cut the tight cords through a small needle puncture.

Surgical risks include injury to nerves or blood vessels, infection, and a possible recurrence of the contracture.

Aftercare and Recovery

The recovery process is crucial after any treatment.

Patients typically undergo physical therapy to regain strength and hand function and may need to wear a splint to keep the fingers straight and facilitate healing.

It’s important to follow the healthcare provider’s instructions meticulously to minimize the risk of complications and encourage improvement.

Research and Future Directions

The understanding of Dupuytren’s contracture continues to evolve with insights from molecular biology and evolution.

Genetic research, like that by Hugo Zeberg, uses biobanks to locate genetic variants influencing the disease.

This might open the door to more targeted and effective therapies.

Additionally, the notable impact of COVID-19 on the medical field has also led to further considerations in managing elective treatments like those for Dupuytren’s.

Living with Dupuytren’s

Living with Dupuytren’s contracture involves managing symptoms and adapting one’s lifestyle to maintain hand function.

Regular monitoring, conservative treatment strategies, and being mindful of risk factors such as alcoholism or epilepsy are part of ongoing care.

It’s also recommended to stay informed on new treatments and management strategies that could help maintain a high quality of life.