What is Buerger's disease (thromboangiitis obliterans)?
Buerger's disease (thromboangiitis obliterans) is a problem with the smaller blood vessels of the arms and legs. Inflammation, which is part of the body's immune response, happens in these blood vessels. That causes clumps of cells to form clots. The clots can reduce or block blood flow in the blood vessels. That makes it hard for blood and oxygen to reach the ends of your arms and legs.
The lack of blood and oxygen can damage the tissues in your fingers and toes, which can be very painful. In serious cases, the tissue might die.
What causes Buerger's disease (thromboangiitis obliterans)?
Smoking tobacco can lead to Buerger's disease. Almost all of the people who have this problem are smokers. In rare cases, a person who doesn't smoke tobacco can get this problem.
What are the symptoms of Buerger's disease (thromboangiitis obliterans)?
The most common symptoms are pain and a change of color in the fingers and toes. The pain can occur both while you are active and when you rest, and it can be severe. You may have a reaction to cold that causes pain and numbness. Your skin may look purple or pale.
You may have painful ulcers (skin sores) on your fingers and toes. Unlike some other types of skin sores, these ulcers don't heal. They may lead to tissue death. This is called gangrene.
How is Buerger's disease (thromboangiitis obliterans) treated?
The goals of treating Buerger's disease are to relieve your symptoms, restore blood flow to your hands and feet, and prevent tissue damage. Stopping smoking is the only treatment that can relieve symptoms and keep the disease from getting worse. It can also lower your risk of having badly damaged tissue removed.
Your doctor may recommend other treatments to manage pain or help heal ulcers. For example, your doctor may prescribe medicine to try to relieve pain. You may also take medicine that might prevent blood clots.
If the tissue damage on your fingers or toes is too severe, you may need to have the finger or toe amputated.