ALERTS & COVID-19 UPDATES Learn more: COVID-19 Resources; COVID-19 Testing; Vaccine Info; Visitor Policy; Support Us

Lahey Health is now part of Beth Israel Lahey Health

by EBSCO Medical Review Board
(Thromboangiitis Obliterans)

Definition

Buerger disease is the inflammation and blockage of blood vessels. This reduces blood flow and can lead to tissue damage. It mainly affects the vessels in the hands and feet.

Causes

The exact cause is not known. It is strongly linked to tobacco use. The link is not well understood.

Risk Factors

This risk of this problem is higher in people who smoke, especially young males. This includes smoking cigarettes , using chewing tobacco, smoking cigars, or using any other type of tobacco.

Symptoms

Poor blood flow to the hands and feet may cause:

  • Pain, numbness, burning, and tingling
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Changes in skin color (white, red, or bluish hands or feet)

Buerger disease can lead to sores and swelling under the skin. People with severe symptoms may have tissue death ( gangrene ). Gangrene causes skin in the hands and feet to turn black.

Tissue Death in the Foot
nucleus factsheet image
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. Buerger disease is hard to diagnose because it is similar to other health conditions.

Your blood may be tested to rule out other problems.

Your blood vessels may be checked. This can be done with an angiogram.

Treatment

There is no cure. The goal of treatment is to stop the disease from getting worse. To do this, all tobacco products must be stopped. There are many methods that can help a person quit.

Other treatments include:

  • Medicine to:
    • Improve blood flow
    • Dissolve clots
    • Lower blood pressure
  • Wound care to help with skin healing
  • Surgery to control pain and increase blood flow

People with severe disease may need to have an amputation to remove dead tissue. This is more common in people who do not stop smoking.

Prevention

The risk of this health problem can be lowered by avoiding tobacco products.

RESOURCES

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute  https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov 

Vasculitis Foundation  https://www.vasculitisfoundation.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Health Canada  https://www.canada.ca 

When it Hurts to Move—Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation  https://whenithurtstomove.org 

References

Buerger’s disease. The Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsvasculitis.org/types-vasculitis/buergers-disease. Accessed August 3, 2021.

Buerger’s disease. Vasculitis Foundation website. Available at: https://www.vasculitisfoundation.org/education/forms/buergers-disease. Accessed August 3, 2021.

Buerger’s disease (thromboangitis obliterans). UC Davis Health System website. Available at: https://health.ucdavis.edu/vascular/diseases/buergers%5Fdisease.html. Accessed August 3, 2021.

Smoking and Buerger's disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/buergers-disease.html. Accessed August 3, 2021.

Thromboangiitis obliterans. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/thromboangiitis-obliterans. Accessed August 3, 2021.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
  • Review Date: 07/2021
  • Update Date: 08/03/2021