You've likely never heard of the disease, but chances are you know someone with the crippling hand condition. Now there's a new, less invasive treatment option for the around five percent of people who suffer from the disease.
79-year-old Alice Wells is getting back into embroidery after years of putting down the needle and thread. The Sioux Falls woman has a crippling hand condition known as Dupuytren's contracture. It's an inherited disorder where the fingers bend towards the palm and cannot be fully extended.
"They eventually will curl like this if you don't get them treated," Wells said.
It wasn't just embroidery that was difficult. Wells struggled to do everyday tasks.
"You can't get ahold of anything, and they get weaker," Wells said.
She underwent surgery five times. After several surgeries, Wells said she would never undergo another surgery, but that's when her doctor told her about a new treatment.
Instead of surgery, a doctor injects a medication called Xiaflex into the hand where the cord that causes the finger to be bent is located.
"So, that you can manipulate the finger and make it go straight," CORE Orthopedics Avera Medical Group Hand Surgeon Dr. Scott McPherson said.
McPherson recently started doing the new procedure. He took part in a clinical trial to gain FDA approval, which happened in 2010.
"The fact that it's not the big rigmarole that a surgery was and didn't have the amount of pain or discomfort. They didn't have near the recovery time," McPherson said.
Patients like Wells are only sore for about a week compared to two months of recovery after surgery.
"The surgery is quite serious. They open up your hand, and it heals from the inside out. They don't stitch it up," Wells said.
Wells is thankful to be back to embroidery and grateful for the new treatment, not only for herself, but also for her son and grandson, who both were diagnosed with Dupuytren's.
While Xiaflex helps treat the symptoms of Dupuytren's, there's no cure for the disease.