Buerger’s disease is a rare disorder characterized by inflamed arteries that eventually get blocked by blood clots. This condition is also known as thromboangiitis obliterans, and is generally observed in the arms and legs.
What Causes Buerger’s Disease?
While the cause of Buerger’s disease is unknown, some doctors believe that it is either genetic, or some are more likely to have it. Some believe that tobacco chemicals cause arterial swelling, while others believe that the tobacco activates the immune system to fight against the blood vessels.
Most patients affected by Buerger’s disease have a history of tobacco consumption. The inflammation and blockage lead to blood clots that stop the flow of blood. The stoppage of blood flow further leads to newer clots, thereby worsening the disease.
Causative factors of Buerger’s disease
Doctors and experts have not been able to definitively direct a reason for the occurrence of Buerger’s disease. Tobacco consumption in all forms has been accorded the primary cause. The ingredients of the tobacco inflame and swell the inner lining of the vascular system, eventually leading to clots in chronic cases. In addition to this, genetic predisposition to the disease and the auto-immune reaction to the vascular system have also been observed in certain cases.
What are the Symptoms of Buerger’s Disease?
The symptoms of Buerger’s disease are generally observed in the hands and feet are:
- Open sores at the toes and fingers
- Reddish-blue coloration of the skin
- Toes and fingers that turn pale due to cold
- Observable vascular inflammation (swelling in the veins)
When to See A Doctor?
You must immediately visit the doctor when you observe swelling, redness, and pain in your fingers and toes alongside observable blood clots in your veins. Also, since some people are more likely than others to have Buerger’s disease, you must visit the doctor even if you do not consume tobacco.
Buerger’s disease is first observed in the hands and feet and develops in larger areas with time. Over a while, the blood clots cause infection and may even lead to gangrene. At such stages, the doctors advise the amputation of the affected parts.
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How is Buerger’s disease diagnosed?
No particular tests have been designed to solely confirm Buerger’s disease. Your doctor may nevertheless ask you to perform other tests that would rule out various other conditions. Some of these tests may be:
- Blood Tests – Blood tests would help diagnose autoimmune diseases and rule out other illnesses such as diabetes, blood clotting factors, etc.
- Allen’s Test – Your doctor would also check the blood flow through the vascular system in your hands. He would perform this test on both the hands by pressing the arteries and releasing it.
- Angiogram – Your doctor may even ask you to perform an angiogram to check your arteries’ condition. Computed Tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans can perform the angiogram.
What are the Risks Factors For Buerger’s Disease?
Various risk factors that have been associated with Buerger’s disease are:
- Tobacco Consumption – Buerger’s disease is primarily observed in people who consume tobacco in any form. Since the leading form of tobacco consumption is cigarette smoking, you are at a higher risk of acquiring Buerger’s disease if you smoke more than one and a half packs of cigarettes in a day. You are at equally high risk if you smoke hand-rolled tobacco.
- Gum Disease – Despite the lack of an explanation, chronic gum disease has also been correlated with Buerger’s disease.
- Gender – Males, in general, are far more prone to Buerger’s disease due to higher smoking than females.
- Age – The first occurrence of Buerger’s disease is observed in people less than forty-five years of age.
What are the Complications of Buerger’s Disease?
Buerger’s disease is characterized by blood clots in the vascular system of the hands and legs. Owing to the developing blood clots, the hands and legs’ tissues do not receive blood and the accompanied oxygen and nutrients. These tissues eventually die and turn into gangrene. You are most likely to have gangrene tissue if your fingers and toes have lost the feeling of touch and have turned bluish-black. Such affected areas may also develop a foul smell.
Due to its severity, gangrenous tissue is amputated. In severe cases, Buerger’s disease can even lead to a heart attack or stroke.
What is the Treatment for Buerger’s Disease?
So far, no treatment exists for Buerger’s disease. The most effective step that a patient can take is to quit all forms of tobacco use and consumption. The absence of tobacco would reduce the vascular system’s swelling and reduce blood clots’ occurrence afterward. Your doctor may prescribe medications that would help you stop smoking, thus preventing inflammation in the blood vessels.
Your doctor would also advise you to avoid nicotine replacement products as these too trigger Buerger’s disease. For such cases, your doctor would encourage you to take non-nicotine based products.
Your doctor may even advise you to join groups or programs that would assist in smoking cessation. These programs would guide you to deal with your cravings and live a tobacco-free life.
Other treatments that your doctor would advise you would be:
- Improving the blood flow by dilating the arteries
- Intermittent compression to increase the blood flow
- Stimulation of the spinal cord
- Amputation of tissue that has turned into gangrene
Some other experimental treatments that your doctor may or may not advise you to go through are:
- Growing New Blood Vessels – You would be prescribed drugs that would stimulate new blood vessels’ growth.
- Nerve Surgery – The nerves to the affected areas are surgically cut. This procedure would increase the blood flow to the region and also control the pain.
- Bosentan – This drug, although prescribed for the lungs to treat high blood pressure, has shown to improve blood flow in patients suffering from Buerger’s disease.
- Blood Vessel Procedure – This is a procedure wherein a thin catheter is inserted to open the blood vessels and improve blood flow.
Prevention of Buerger’s Disease
Since the primary cause of Buerger’s disease is tobacco, it is necessary to completely stop the use and intake of tobacco in any form. If you are a regular smoker, you may find quitting smoking or its consumption hard. You must talk to your doctor regarding the various strategies and techniques to quit smoking. These techniques would help you lead a healthy life and reduce the chances of an inflamed vascular system, developing clots, and gangrene in your body.
Buerger’s disease is a rare disease associated with excessive smoking that leads to blood clots in the extremities. To avoid and cure this disease, you must quit using all forms of tobacco. You must also visit your doctor, who would prescribe you the right alternatives, treatments, methodologies, and techniques to quit tobacco and introduce healthy habits.
Although no primary treatment has been discovered for this disease, quitting tobacco has been considered the most successful strategy to improve the disease’s status in the body.
- What are some home remedies that can be employed to treat Buerger’s disease?
Changes in lifestyle and introduction of habits such as exercise, skincare (especially in areas affected by Buerger’s disease), prevention of infection, taking good care of your gums, and avoiding passive smoking can assist in curing Buerger’s disease.
- How are gum care and Buerger’s disease-related?
Although not confirmed, gum infection has been directly correlated to Buerger’s disease. Some studies show that bacteremia is associated with periodontitis, which would directly induce inflammation of the blood vessels.
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