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Buerger’s disease: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About buerger’s disease

Buerger’s disease also known by the name of ‘thromboangitis obliterans, is a disease of the blood vessels supplying the arms and the legs. Inflammation of these blood vessels results in their swelling which obliterates the lumen and thereby diminishes blood flow to the extremities. It is an uncommon disease which may result in consequences of grave intensity.

Buerger’s disease: Incidence, age and sex

Buerger’s disease is a rare disease which shows clear gender predilection. It is chiefly seen in middle aged men.

Signs and symptoms of buerger’s disease: Diagnosis

The clinical features of buerger’s disease are confined to the hands and the feet which may exhibit paleness or bluish discolouration and may feel cold on touching. The individual may also experience tingling sensation along with dull pain. In advanced stage of the disease, swelling of hands or feet coupled with skin ulceration may be prominent. Some affected individual may also complain of characteristic pain in legs, called intermittent claudication, which occurs on walking and gets relieved on rest. Physical examination by a specialist may reveal feeble or absent pulses in the extremities. Doppler ultrasonography and/or angiography of limb vessels are considered the investigations of choice, wherein the doctor can have a clear view of blocked arteries.

Causes and prevention of buerger’s disease

This disease is characterised by inflammation of blood vessels (vasculitis) supplying hands and feet. The exact cause of this inflammation is not clear but risk factors like smoking and tobacco chewing have been postulated to result in deposition of toxic substances in the walls of the blood vessels causing inflammation. The walls of inflamed blood vessels become swollen, thereby obliterating the lumen and resulting in diminished blood flow to the hands and the feet. Insufficient flow of oxygen carrying blood to the extremities may result in serious damage to the hand and feet tissues. The most effective preventive measure is cessation of smoking which not only thwarts this disease but also reverses the effects of disease if already present.

Buerger’s disease: Complications

Lack of adequate blood and oxygen to the hands and the feet for a long time may result in seriously damaging the tissues and eventually causing tissue death. This phenomenon is irreversible and termed as ‘gangrene’ wherein the skin may show bluish discolouration, ulcers with foul smelling discharge. This condition may need urgent amputation resulting in the loss of limb.

Buerger’s disease: Treatment

Buerger’s disease is an incurable disease with serious consequences of tissue death and loss of limbs. There is no specific treatment for buerger’s disease. However, symptomatic relief can be provided by analgesics and by exercising the limbs. Smokers are recommended to stop smoking which may help in reversing the course of disease. Surgical sympathectomy may provide some pain relief in certain individuals who have increased limb pain in spite of painkillers. In serious instances, where gangrene has affected the limb, amputation may have to be considered.