If you met DeVonne Zeasman, 47, a few years ago, you would've had to look closely to see that she had any physical problems. But ever since DeVonne was a child, she has been unable to straighten the little finger of her right hand due to a condition called Dupuytren's contracture.
Not one to let anything slow her down, DeVonne has always been a successful businesswoman. In the 1990s, she started a direct-mail company and today shares office space with her husband who owns a construction business.
While DeVonne's life has always been full, since undergoing a corrective procedure on her hand at Virginia Mason, she's come to realize that there were things she was missing. "It may seem like a little thing," says DeVonne, "but now when I wash my hair, I can feel my scalp in a way I never could before." DeVonne is also enjoying wearing gloves when she gardens or participates in winter sports activities. "It was always mittens before."
Dupuytren's disease starts with lumps of painless tissue forming under the skin on the palm of the hand and at the base of the fingers. These are often mistaken for callouses, but over time, the tissue forms thick bands that pull the finger(s) toward the palm.
DeVonne's symptoms began at age 12, after she cut her finger while washing a glass that broke, requiring her to have stitches. An injury can sometimes cause the condition to flare up in someone who has Dupuytren's. DeVonne's parents knew right away what it was because they both had Dupuytren's in one or both of their own hands. Researchers believe the disease has a hereditary element that mostly affects people of Northern European descent.
“I always told myself, 'I'm fine. I can live with this.”
In the past, surgery was used to straighten out the fingers of those with Duypuytren's, but the procedure had risks and the condition often returned. DeVonne had long decided against an operation and adapted her life to deal with the disease. "I always told myself, 'I'm fine. I can live with this.'"
But then DeVonne's father's Dupuytren's contracture was successfully treated at Virginia Mason with an injection of Xiaflex, a medication that dissolves the buildup of collagen in the tendons. "The results were amazing," says DeVonne. Virginia Mason is at the forefront of using this procedure to help patients with Dupuytren".
This spring, DeVonne had the same procedure as her father. On the first visit, the Xiaflex was carefully injected into the excess tissue causing the contracture of the little finger. After 24 hours, DeVonne noticed the finger was opening on its own.
She returned for a second procedure where her palm was numbed and the finger forcefully straightened, causing a tear in the skin. DeVonne said even though it sounds like it would hurt, she didn't feel anything. She went home that day with her finger in a splint to keep it straight. The skin on her palms healed within 10 days and today she has no scar.
DeVonne says she not only got back the use of her little finger, but the ring finger next to it as well. "If you bend your pinkie," she points out, "your ring finger follows suit." DeVonne says she's finding new enjoyment in little things like driving and cooking…and washing her hair.
For more information about treatment for Dupuytren's contracture, contact Virginia Mason's hand surgery team at (206) 341-3000.