Buerger’s Disease or thromboangiitis obliterans is inflammation and/or blockage of blood vessels in the hands and feet which usually leads to gangrene (death of the living tissue). It is a rare disease, especially in the United States; being more prevalent in the Middle East and Far East. Buerger’s Disease is generally found in men 40 and below, although some cases of women are now being seen as well. Although is it not guaranteed to cause Buerger’s Disease, smoking (cigars, cigarettes, and chewing tobacco) is almost always present in those who are diagnosed with the disease. It is believed (though not yet proven) that the chemicals inhaled with tobacco use irritates the linings of the blood vessels causing them to swell and bring on Buerger’s Disease. It is also believed that those who roll their own cigarettes are at even greater risk for the disease.
What is Buerger's Disease?
(pronounced as burgers)--Buerger's Disease is a vascular disease that first affects the outer extremities of the body and is believed to be related to the effects of tobacco usage.
Even with all of the scientific knowledge available today, scientists are not yet certain what the exact triggers of this disease are.
Genetics may play a part in the disease, however, studies have shown that any use of tobacco products may also have a huge impact on the development of the disease. Second hand smoke, although not linked directly to Buerger’s Disease, is thought to be a dangerous risk factor if someone has already been diagnosed with the disease. Anyone diagnosed with Buerger’s Disease should avoid second hand smoke.
Quit smoking and avoid second hand smoke
Smoking can be the cause.
Buerger's Disease, if left untreated, can cause the loss of fingers and toes.
It can also move up to arms and legs. Amputation may be (and usually is) necessary to stop the spread of the disease. Continued use of tobacco products will most certainly cause further damage to veins and arteries. One way to stop and/or prevent Buerger’s Disease is to stop using all tobacco products. While the cessation of smoking can help prevent the disease, it is not a guarantee that you will not develop the disease later in life. In fact, it is not guaranteed that if you do not smoke, but are genetically inclined to develop Buerger’s Disease, you will not develop the disease.
Even if you have Buerger's Disease in your family history, there is no guarantee that you will develop the diseases, especially since Buerger's Disease is so rare. However, anyone who is genetically inclined to develop the disease should avoid smoking, tobacco use in general and second-hand smoke as a preventive measure.
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Characterizations of the disease.
The disease is characterized by pain in toes, feet, legs, fingers, hands and/or arms. The pain will come and go without a pattern and usually eases when the use of the limb ceases (if you are walking, the legs and feet will hurt until you sit down). There may be inflammation along a vein just below the surface of the skin (which could be a blood clot in the vein), and the fingers or toes may become very pale when exposed to the cold. Outer extremities (toes, fingers, feet, and hands) may begin to feel cold to the touch. Open sores may develop that will refuse to heal. Fingers and toes may become very weak, with the weakness moving further into the limb as the disease progresses. Chronic infection of the gums can also be caused by Buerger’s Disease. If you experience any of these symptoms you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
Gangrene sets in.
Because the outer extremities do not get the needed oxygen and nutrients that are delivered by the blood, they eventually die. This is extremely painful, and will spread throughout the limb fairly quickly because the body is trying to fight the infection without nutrients or oxygen. Eventually the infection becomes gangrenous and spreads further and further through the limb and eventually the body. Treatment of the disease involves quitting all tobacco products, antibiotics to treat present infections, and amputation of badly gangrenous limbs. Although gangrene is not a guarantee that you have Buerger's Disease, it is an extremely dangerous infection that should be treated immediately no matter what the cause.
Gangrene is the dying of living flesh. The area swells with green pus and has an extremely bad odor. Gangrene, once set in, is difficult and in many cases impossible to treat. Amputation is usually necessary.
Buerger's Disease may lead to this
Anyone with Buerger’s Disease may also be at risk for Moyamoya Syndrome which is the swelling and/or blockage of blood vessels in the brain. This could, and usually does, lead to strokes, aneurysms, and permanent damage to the brain. Moyamoya, which appears as a puff of smoke on x-rays, is treatable if found early enough. Moyamoya can be caused by many factors of which Buerger's Disease is one.