Buerger’s disease (thromboangiitis obliterans) is one of many types of vasculitis. This is inflammation that involves your blood vessels. Buerger’s disease causes a tightening, or a blockage, of the blood vessels in your feet and hands. When blood doesn’t flow well to your hands and feet, you may experience pain, especially during activity, and tissue damage. In the most extreme cases, sores (ulcers) appear on your fingers and toes. They can become infected and cause gangrene. In a small number of people, Buerger’s disease reduces blood flow to the heart, belly, or brain.
Symptoms of Buerger’s disease include:
Pain in your lower legs or feet when walking
Pain in your hands or forearms
Ulcers on your toes and fingers
Raynaud’s syndrome, a narrowing of blood vessels in your hands and sometimes your toes
Who’s at risk
People at the greatest risk for Buerger's disease are those who are heavy smokers. Men of Asian or Eastern European descent who are between ages 20 and 40 seem to be especially vulnerable.
To make a diagnosis, your physician will consider:
Your overall health and medical history
Your description of symptoms
Lifestyle choices, such as whether you smoke
A physical exam
Imaging tests to assess tissue damage
Treatment recommendations may depend on how far your disease has progressed. Options include:
Complications are problems caused by your condition. Possible complications from Buerger’s disease include:
You can prevent Buerger’s disease by not smoking.
When to call the doctor
Talk to your doctor if you have:
Pain in your lower legs, feet, hands, or forearms that continues to get worse
Sores on your hands or feet that do not heal
Signs of infection in the affected areas
How to manage or live with the condition
Follow your doctor’s recommendations for taking care of yourself. The best way to stop or slow Buerger’s disease is to stop using tobacco completely. Talk with your doctor if you need help with a tobacco cessation plan.
- Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
- Sohrabi, Farrokh, MD