Site Map

Thromboangiitis obliterans

Buerger disease

Thromboangiitis obliterans is a rare disease in which blood vessels of the hands and feet become blocked.

Images

Thromboangiites obliterans
Circulatory system

Causes

Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger disease) is caused by small blood vessels that become inflamed and swollen. The blood vessels then narrow or get blocked by blood clots (thrombosis). Blood vessels of the hands and feet are mostly affected. Arteries are more affected than veins. Average age when symptoms begin is around 35. Women and older adults are affected less often.

This condition mostly affects young men ages 20 to 45 who are heavy smokers or chew tobacco. Female smokers may also be affected. The condition affects more people in the Middle East, Asia, the Mediterranean, and Eastern Europe. Many people with this problem have poor dental health, most likely due to tobacco use.

Symptoms

Symptoms most often affect 2 or more limbs and may include:

Exams and Tests

The following tests may show blockage of blood vessels in the affected hands or feet:

Blood tests for other causes of inflamed blood vessels (vasculitis) and blocked (occlusion of) blood vessels may be done. These causes include diabetes, scleroderma, vasculitis, hypercoagulability, and atherosclerosis. There are no blood tests that diagnose thromboangiitis obliterans.

A heart echocardiogram may be done to look for sources of blood clots. In rare cases when the diagnosis is unclear, a biopsy of the blood vessel is done.

Treatment

There is no cure for thromboangiitis obliterans. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms and prevent the disease from getting worse.

Stopping tobacco use of any kind is key to controlling the disease. Smoking cessation treatments are strongly recommended. It is also important to avoid cold temperatures and other conditions that reduce blood flow in the hands and feet.

Applying warmth and doing gentle exercises can help increase circulation.

Aspirin and medicines that open the blood vessels (vasodilators) may help. In very bad cases, surgery to cut the nerves to the area (surgical sympathectomy) can help control pain. Rarely, bypass surgery is considered in certain people.

It may become necessary to amputate the fingers or toes if the area becomes very infected and tissue dies.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Symptoms of thromboangiitis obliterans may go away if the person stops tobacco use. People who continue to use tobacco may need repeated amputations.

Possible Complications

Complications include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

Prevention

People with a history of Raynaud phenomenon or blue, painful fingers or toes, especially with ulcers, should not use any form of tobacco.

Related Information

Raynaud phenomenon
Autoimmune disorders

References

Akar AR, Inan B. Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger disease). In: Sidawy AN, Perler BA, eds. Rutherford's Vascular Surgery and Endovascular Therapy. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 138.

Gupta N, Wahlgren CM, Azizzadeh A, Gewertz BL. Buerger's disease (Thromboangiitis obliterans). In: Cameron JL, Cameron AM, eds. Current Surgical Therapy. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:1054-1057.

Jaff MR, Bartheolomew JR. Other peripheral arterial diseases. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 72.

BACK TO TOP

Review Date: 8/3/2020  

Reviewed By: Diane M. Horowitz, MD, Rheumatology and Internal Medicine, Northwell Health, Great Neck, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

ADAM Quality Logo

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, for Health Content Provider (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial policy, editorial process and privacy policy. A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2021 A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Firefox and Google Chrome browser.