Definition

Buerger disease is inflammation of the blood vessels. This condition mainly affects the vessels in the hands and feet. Inflammation and blood clots can form and block blood flow. This leads to pain, tissue damage, and even tissue death.

Causes

The exact cause is not known.

Risk Factors

Buerger disease is linked to tobacco use. This includes smoking cigarettes, using chewing tobacco, smoking cigars, or using any other type of tobacco.

It's more common in:

  • Men
  • People aged 20-40 years old
  • Those who live in Eastern Europe and Asian countries

Buerger disease is not common in the US.

Symptoms

Poor blood flow causes problems. It usually starts in the hands and feet, causing:

  • Pain, numbness, burning sensation, and tingling
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Skin discoloration (white, red, or bluish hands or feet)—These changes may be triggered by certain conditions such as exposure to cold. This is called Raynaud phenomenom.

Buerger disease can lead to swelling under the skin, sores, and ulcers. The most serious complication is tissue death (gangrene). Gangrene causes skin in the hands and feet to turn black.

Tissue Death in the Foot
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Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Buerger disease is hard to diagnose because it’s similar to other health conditions. You may have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • An angiogram to check your blood vessels

Treatment

This first thing you’ll have to do is quit smoking. This can help to lower the chances the disease will worsen. Your doctor will help you find the best way for you to quit.

Other treatments:

  • Proper wound care—You will need to take special care of your skin. If your feet are numb you may not realize that you have a cut. Your doctor may ask you to carefully inspect your skin daily.
  • Medicines
  • Exercise
  • Surgery

Amputation may be needed to remove dead tissue in those with severe disease. People who continue to smoke are at a greater risk of amputation.

Prevention

The best way to prevent Buerger disease is to not use tobacco products.

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