Thromboangiitis obliterans is a rare disease in which blood vessels of the hands and feet become blocked.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger's disease) is caused by vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels).
The blood vessels of the hands and feet are especially affected. They tighten or become totally blocked. The average age when symptoms begin is around 35 years. Woman and older adults are affected less often.
Thromboangiitis obliterans mostly affects men ages 20 to 40 who have a history of heavy smoking or chewing tobacco. Only 1 out of 10 patients are women.
Blood tests for other causes of vasculitis and inflammation may be done. Rarely, in cases where the diagnosis is unclear, a biopsy of the blood vessel is done.
There is no cure for thromboangiitis obliterans. The goal of treatment is to control symptoms.
The patient must stop using tobacco and should avoid cold temperatures and other conditions that reduce circulation to the hands and feet.
Applying warmth and exercising gently may help increase circulation.
Cutting the nerves to the area (surgical sympathectomy) may help control pain. Aspirin and vasodilators may also used. It may be necessary to amputate the hand or foot if infection or widespread tissue death occurs.
Symptoms of thromboangiitis obliterans may disappear if the person stops tobacco use. For some, amputation is unavoidable.
A.D.A.M. Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by Ariel D. Teitel, MD, MBA, Chief, Division of Rheumatology, St. Vincent's Hospital, New York, NY. Review provided by Verimed Healthcare Network (11/5/2010).