What Is Buerger’s Disease?
Buerger’s disease (the medical terminology is thromboangiitis obliterans) is a rare type of disease which affects the arteries and veins in the arms and legs. Blood vessels become inflamed, swollen and blood clots, known as thrombi, are formed in the blood vessels.
Buerger’s Disease Causes :
The causes of Buerger’s disease aren’t well known scientifically. But most people affected by the Buerger’s disease are smokers or use some other form of tobacco. In some cases, the sufferers of this disease may be genetically prone to developing the condition. But the chances of them getting affected is very less if they don’t smoke or don’t use any other form of tobacco.
Buerger’s Disease Signs and Symptoms :
The initial symptom of Buerger’s disease may be pain in the affected areas. Occasional pain in hands and legs may be felt. The pain may be followed by weakness in the same areas. The veins and arteries in the limbs may have thrombosis and inflammation. Sensitivity for cold is increased as the inflammation and thrombosis cause impaired blood circulation. Toes and finger become paled when they come into contact with cold temperatures. The peripheral pulses may be reduced or not present at all.
In extreme cases, color changes of skin may occur. The color may range from reddish blue to cyanotic blue. The skin of the sufferer may turn pale and thin. Growth of hair may also get reduced. If proper treatment is not done, it might lead to gangrene and ulceration in extreme conditions. Amputation of limbs would be needed in case of these extremities.
Buerger’s Disease Diagnosis :
The diagnosis of Buerger’s disease often relies on exclusion of other diseases. The procedure mentioned below is often followed for diagnosis:
- Present or past history of the usage of tobacco products.
- Checking the presence of distal extremity ischemia with noninvasive vascular testing, like ultrasound.
- Excluding diabetes mellitus and other autoimmune diseases.
- Excluding proximal source of emboli by the process of arteriography and echocardiography.
- Consistently keeping track of arteriographic findings in clinically involved and noninvolved limbs.
Other disorders which have the same symptoms as that of Buerger’s disease must be ruled out, as the treatment of those diseases differs largely from the Buerger’s disease.
Sometimes an angiogram in the affected parts can help in diagnosing Buerger’s disease. An angiogram is performed by injecting a dye into the artery and an X-ray of the area to see the blockage in the artery is taken. The X-ray may reveal corkscrew type of appearance on the arteries that have vascular damage, especially on the arteries of ankles and wrists. Angiograms also reveal blockages in many areas of legs and hands.
Sometimes, skin biopsies on the affected parts of the body are performed because a biopsy around a place that is poorly perfused with blood may not heal properly. Another common test is the Allen test. The patient is asked to tighten his/her fist. The doctor then presses the artery of the hand. When the fist is opened, the doctor releases the pressure on the artery. The color gets changed quickly from pale to the original. If the change is slow, it might be an indication of Buerger’s disease.
Buerger’s disease is not fatal at the beginning stage. Prognosis improves a lot if the person quits smoking and the use of tobacco products. Amputation of limbs is almost twice as likely in patients who still continue to smoke or use tobacco products after the diagnosis.
Buerger’s Disease Prevention :
Buerger’s disease is considered to be an autoimmune disease. There is a high chance that patients suffering from this disease were or are smokers or use some form of tobacco. If you want to stay away from this one and many other diseases related to tobacco consumption, quit smoking or using tobacco products. It is better to stay away from secondhand smoke as well.
Buerger’s Disease Treatment :
There is no known treatment for Buerger’s disease. Quitting smoking and use of tobacco products is the most effective way to control the progress of this disease. There are medications which can help in quitting smoking and stopping the swelling of blood vessels. When the case of the disease is acute, vasodilation can help in reducing the pain of the sufferer. However, vasodilation may help in pain relief but is not capable of treating the disease completely. An example for vasodilator is prostaglandins. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy and epidural anesthesia are also known to have the effect of vasodilator.
When the case of the disease is chronic, Lumbar sympathectomy can be done. It is a procedure in which the nerves of the affected area are cut through surgical procedure. It controls the pain and increases blood flow. In gangrenous regions, amputation is mostly done. Intermittent compression of the arms and legs is done to increase blood flow in extreme conditions. Other types of treatment include spinal cord stimulation and medications to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels (therapeutic angiogenesis). However, these approaches are considered experimental.
So, as discussed earlier, Buerger’s disease is not fatal at the beginning stage. Although it might lead to severe complications, like amputation of limbs. So if you want to stay healthy and keep yourself away from the Buerger’s disease, you have to stay away from smoking and other tobacco products. So please quit using tobacco products if you use them now and stay healthy.