Named after a nineteenth-century French baron, Dupuytren's contracture is a thickening of tissue in the palm that causes an inability to straighten one or more fingers, usually the ring finger or little finger. The involved tissue hardens and shrinks forming a small lump or "cord" in the palm. Discomfort is unusual. The condition can involve both hands or even the toes, and tends to progress slowly.
If you have Dupuytren's contracture, you may wonder if you injured your hand in some way, but if injury plays any role it is probably not a major one. Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, the disorder appears to be at least partially inherited.
If the contracture becomes very troublesome, surgery may be useful.
There are no well-documented natural treatments for Dupuytren's contracture. However, in the 1940s, a number of physicians reported attempts to treat the condition with vitamin E.1,2 Most reported some success; however, their reports were incomplete and highly subjective, leading others to question their findings.
In 1952, two different researchers added an objective measure to their investigations by examining plaster casts of patients' hands before and after treatment, but their results were conflicting.
One researcher treated a group of 19 people with 300 mg daily of oral vitamin E for 300 days and reported moderate improvement in the amount of contraction.3 In contrast, the other researcher found no improvement among 46 people receiving 200 mg of vitamin E daily for 3 months.4
However, since neither of these studies used a control group, the results are not particularly meaningful. Only double-blind placebo-controlled studies can prove a treatment effective, and none have been reported for vitamin E in the treatment of Duyputren's. (For information on why double-blind studies are so important, see Why Does This Database Rely on Double-blind Studies?)
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full vitamin E article.
1. Kirk JE, Chieffi M. Tocopherol administration to patients with Dupuytren's contracture: effect on plasma tocopherol levels and degree of contracture. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1952;80:565–568.
2. Richards HJ. Dupuytren's contracture treated with vitamin E. BMJ. 1952;1328.
3. Kirk JE, Chieffi M. Tocopherol administration to patients with Dupuytren's contracture: effect on plasma tocopherol levels and degree of contracture. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 1952;80:565–568.
4. Richards HJ. Dupuytren's contracture treated with vitamin E. BMJ. 1952;1328.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015