Buerger’s disease, also known as thromboangiitis obliterans, is a disease in which blood vessels of the hands and feet become blocked. The disease is caused by small blood vessels that become inflamed and swollen. The blood vessels then narrow or become completely blocked by blood clots. Blood vessels of the hands and feet are especially affected.
Buerger’s disease occurs almost exclusively in heavy tobacco users, including those who smoke cigarettes or chew tobacco. It occurs most often in those between the ages of 20 and 40 years old and is more common in men and those with a history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes.
There is no cure for thromboangiitis obliterans. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and to prevent the disease from getting worse. There is only one treatment for the disease — immediate and complete cessation of smoking and other tobacco use. The patient must stop using tobacco. It is also important to avoid cold temperatures and other conditions that reduce blood flow in the hands and feet. Applying warmth and exercising gently can help increase circulation. Aspirin and medications that open the blood vessels may also help.
Symptoms of Buerger’s disease may disappear if the person stops tobacco use. People with the disease who continue to smoke risk amputation of affected fingers or toes.