“Viking hands” – (not mine!)
You never know what you find out when you visit your doctor.
Yesterday I visited my primary care physician, a woman of a certain age we will call Dr. K.
She gave me the lecture that my A1C levels were too high (not good long term for those with diabetes) and I pointed out that I have lived with the disease for going on 5 decades, still had all my toes, could still see through my old eyes and that my kidneys were still functioning yada yada yada.
“We are not here to negotiate Toritto” was her calm response. “You know what to do. Get your A1C level down”. She proceeded to check me out – “Any pains or aches?”
“No doc.” I am not troubled with arthritis, rheumatism, bad knees or joints. – luckily. I have enough health problems.
“I do however have this crooked pinky finger that I can no longer straighten out.” I showed her my right hand – fingers which won’t entirely straighten capped by a little finger bent at a 90 degree angle. They don’t hurt mind you but it is obvious to me that the tendons have been shortening over the years.
Twenty years ago I had surgery on the left hand with the same problem – only worse. The hand had been turning into a claw. The tendons were operated on giving me increased flexibility but even today I cannot put my hands flat on a table, palms completely in contact with the surface.
She looked at my pinkie, somewhat bemused. “My son can fix that!” Her son is also a doctor – a doctor of hands.
Then she and her nurse, who was taking notes in the room during the exam, looked at each other.
Now what the hell are Viking hands?
Apparently I suffer from “Dupuytren’s Disease (DD), an affliction in which shortening and thickening of fibrous tissue causes the fingers to bend towards the palm. It is painless, but prevents the fingers being fully straightened. It is named after Baron Guillaume Dupuytren, the French anatomist who described an operation to correct the affliction. It is more popularly known as the “Viking disease”.
The disease originated with the Vikings, who spread it throughout Northern Europe and beyond, as they travelled and intermarried.
Greek and Roman literature contain no record of anything resembling DD. The Icelandic sagas of the 12th and 13th centuries, however, describe the disease.
Additionally researchers have found no evidence of DD in early Anglo-Saxon and Gaelic medical literature. In addition, the more extensive medical literature of medieval Europe before 1614 shows no evidence of the condition.
“In his 1963 book, Australian hand surgeon John Hueston wrote, “Dupuytren’s contracture is virtually confined to people of European descent”. Its highest incidence is recorded in Iceland. As expected, the incidence is also high in Scandinavia. In a large 1962 review of published figures, P. F. Early listed the countries of Europe, or countries with large populations of North European descent, in order of the incidence of DD: Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, United Kingdom, Germany, and the United States. The incidence in Sweden was matched by that in Edinburgh. Two different Scottish studies by James and Ling showed such a high family incidence of DD that they described it as being an inherited disorder transmitted through a single gene.”
Now while all this is very interesting why should I care?
Well although our family has lived in Italy for as far back as I can find I have always suspected that there are some Norse rascals in the family.
That particular post got a lot of reads and comments. It also uncovered cousins I had in Texas!
The origin of our family name and that those who carry it can trace their lineage back to Toritto had made me suspect the possibility of Norse ancestry somewhere in the distant past.
Having a name for a “disease’ caused by a single gene originally found only in Scandinavia just adds supports to the thesis.
One never knows what one is going to learn after getting up in the morning!