Smoking and Buerger's Disease

What Is 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

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How Is Smoking Related to Buerger’s Disease?

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

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How Can Buerger’s Disease Be Prevented?

If you want to prevent getting Buerger’s disease, don’t smoke or use any other tobacco products.1

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How Is Buerger’s Disease Treated?

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

Surgery may help restore blood flow to some areas.1 It may be necessary to amputate the hand or foot if infection or widespread tissue death occurs.2

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  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Types of VasculitisExternal [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
  2. Medline Plus. Thromboangiitis ObliteransExternal [last updated 2018 Mar 5; accessed 2018 Mar 22].
  3. Mayo Clinic. Buerger’s Disease: Risk FactorsExternal [accessed 2018 Mar 22].
Meet Brandon

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.”

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