Buerger’s disease is inflammation of blood vessels. This condition particularly affects the vessels in the hands and feet. Inflammation and blood clots can form and block blood flow, leading to pain, tissue damage, and even tissue death.
The exact cause is not known.
The main risk factor is tobacco use. This includes smoking cigarettes , using chewing tobacco, smoking cigars, or using any other type of tobacco.
Certain people are at increased risk. Buerger's disease is more common in men and in people age 20-40 years old. It is also more common in people who live in Eastern Europe and Asian countries. Buerger's disease is not common in the United States.
The symptoms are due to blood not being able to flow properly. People with this condition usually first have problems in their hands and feet. They may experience:
- Pain, numbness, burning sensation, and tingling
- Cold hands and feet
- Skin discoloration (white, red, or bluish hands or feet)—These skin color changes may be triggered by certain factors, like being exposed to cold temperatures. This is called Raynaud phenomenom .
Buerger’s disease can lead to swelling under the skin, sores, and ulcers. The most serious complication is tissue death ( gangrene ). This may be occurring if the fingers turn black.
|Tissue Death in the Foot|
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It may be difficult to diagnosis Buerger’s disease because the symptoms can be similar to other conditions. You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your blood vessels. This can be done with an angiogram .
After being diagnosed with Buerger’s disease, the most important step is to quit smoking . This can help to reduce the chance that the condition will get worse. There are many strategies to help you quit smoking that your doctor can talk to you about.
Other treatment options may include:
Having wounds properly cleaned and cared for:
- You will need to take special care of your skin. If your feet are numb, for example, you may not realize that you have a cut. Your doctor may ask you to carefully inspect your skin daily.
- Taking medications
- Exercising to improve circulation
- Undergoing surgery to increase circulation and decrease pain
In severe cases, amputation may be needed to remove dead tissue. People who continue to smoke are at a greater risk of amputation.
The best way to prevent Buerger’s disease is to not use tobacco products.
- Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
- Reviewed: 06/2016
- Updated: 06/20/2013
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