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What Is Buerger’s Disease?


Monday, November 14th, 2016

Buerger’s disease is a rare vascular disorder linked to smoking and tobacco use that can cause pain, discoloration, and other symptoms in your limbs. If left untreated, this disease can lead to serious complications.

Find out more about this condition, who is at risk, and the options for treatment.

What is Buerger’s Disease?

Healthy blood flow brings oxygen and other nutrients to your organs and tissues. Buerger’s disease, also known as thromboangiitis obliterans, is a very rare condition that causes swelling and blood clots in the small and medium-sized blood vessels of the arms and legs and limits blood flow.

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Symptoms of Buerger’s Disease

Symptoms of this disease can include:

  • Pain in your arms, hands, legs, or feet
  • Pale, red, or blue hands and feet
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Numbness or tingling in your limbs
  • Skin ulcers, or wounds that don’t heal on your fingers and toes

If left untreated, Buerger’s disease can cause gangrene or tissue death in your fingers and toes. Once tissue dies, it must be removed, and in some cases through total amputation.

RELATED: How To Live Without Smoking

Who Is At Risk?

Nearly all people with Buerger’s smoke or use tobacco. It is most common among young or middle-aged men who smoke heavily, and is more prevalent in Asia and the Middle East.

What Causes Buerger’s Disease?

While doctors don’t know the exact cause, Buerger’s disease is linked to smoking and tobacco use. Some doctors believe that the chemicals in tobacco damage the lining of your blood vessels, which causes swelling.

RELATED: How Quitting Smoking Helps Your Heart

What Treatments Are Available?

While there is no cure, quitting smoking and using tobacco products can help prevent Buerger’s from getting worse. Other treatments, like medicines and procedures to restore blood flow, are usually not very effective.

To learn more about Buerger’s disease, contact the UPMC Division of Vascular Surgery at (412) 802-3333.

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Heart and Vascular Institute

As a recognized leader in cardiovascular care — with a rich history in clinical research and innovation — the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers a full spectrum of personalized cardiovascular services. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the United States, UPMC has made significant contributions to the advancement of cardiovascular medicine. Read More