Smoking and Buerger's Disease
Buerger’s disease affects blood vessels in the arms and legs. Blood vessels swell, which can prevent blood flow, causing clots to form. This can lead to pain, tissue damage, and even gangrene (the death or decay of body tissues).1 In some cases, amputation may be required.2
The most common symptoms of Buerger’s disease are:2
- Pale, red, or bluish hands or feet
- Cold hands or feet
- Pain in the hands and feet; may be severe
- Pain in the legs, ankles, or feet when walking—often located in the arch of the foot
- Skin changes, painful sores, or ulcers on the hands or feet
Almost everyone with Buerger’s disease smokes cigarettes. However, Buerger’s disease can occur in people who use other forms of tobacco, like chewing tobacco. People who smoke 1½ packs a day or more are most likely to develop Buerger's disease.3
Researchers are working to understand how tobacco increases the risk for Buerger's disease. One idea is that chemicals in tobacco irritate the lining of the blood vessels and cause them to swell.3
If you want to prevent getting Buerger’s disease, don’t smoke or use any other tobacco products.1
There is no cure for Buerger’s disease. The only way to keep Buerger’s disease from getting worse is to stop using all tobacco products. Medicines don’t usually work well to treat the disease. The best they can do is to control the symptoms.2
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Types of Vasculitis [last updated 2011 Apr 1; accessed 2013 Feb 11].
- Medline Plus. Thromboangiitis Obliterans [last updated 2013 Jan 24; accessed 2013 Feb 11].
- Mayo Clinic. Buerger’s Disease: Risk Factors [accessed 2013 Feb 11].
Brandon was diagnosed with Buerger’s disease. He has undergone several amputations.
"The addiction to cigarettes was so overwhelming that after losing my body parts, I was still smoking."
Real stories about Buerger's disease:
Get email updates
To receive email updates about the Tips From Former Smokers campaign, enter your email address:
- CDC/Office on Smoking and Health
4770 Buford Highway
Atlanta, Georgia 30341-3717