Smoking and Buerger’s Disease
Buerger’s disease (also known as thromboangiitis obliterans) affects blood vessels in the body, most commonly 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
- Fingers or toes that appear pale, red, or bluish
- Cold hands or feet
- Pain in the hands and feet that may feel like burning or tingling
- Pain in the legs, ankles, or feet when walking—often located in the arch of the foot
- Skin changes or small painful sores on the fingers or toes
The exact cause of Buerger’s disease is unknown, however tobacco use is strongly linked to its development.3 Researchers believe that chemicals in tobacco may irritate the lining of the blood vessels, causing them to swell.3
Almost everyone diagnosed with Buerger’s disease smokes cigarettes or uses other forms of tobacco, such as cigars and chewing tobacco.3
If you want to prevent getting Buerger’s disease, don’t smoke cigarettes 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, but can help control the symptoms.2
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Types of Vasculitisexternal icon [last updated 2019 October 21; accessed 2022 Feb 7].
- Medline Plus. Thromboangiitis Obliteransexternal icon [last updated 2022 Feb 4; accessed 2022 Feb 7].
- Mayo Clinic. Buerger’s Diseaseexternal icon [last updated 2021 April 7; accessed 2022 Feb 7].
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