Buerger’s Disease – Causes and Treatments

Buerger’s disease is inflammation and blockage of the blood vessels around the hands and feet. This condition causes pain in the hands and feet.

Pada kasus yang parah, penyakit Buerger atau tromboangitis obliterans dapat menimbulkan infeksi yang bisa berkembang menjadi gangrene. Gangrene adalah kematian jaringan akibat aliran oksigen dan nutrisi ke area tersebut terputus. Jika telah mencapai fase ini, penderita harus menjalani prosedur amputasi.

What causes Buerger’s disease?

The cause of Buerger’s disease is not known, but scientists think something in tobacco hurts the lining in your blood vessels. Most people with Buerger’s disease are tobacco users.

Substances in tobacco are known to irritate small and medium-sized blood vessels, such as those in the hands and feet. This then triggers inflammation which leads to narrowing of the blood vessels and the formation of blood clots.

In addition to tobacco, there are two other factors that are thought to be associated with Buerger’s disease, namely genetic factors and autoimmune diseases.

Buerger’s disease is more common in people aged 40–45 years, and who are active or have actively used tobacco products.

What are the symptoms of Buerger’s disease?

People with Buerger’s disease can experience severe pain in the hands and feet. The pain can appear at any time, either when the sufferer is active (claudication) or at rest. In addition, pain can also worsen when the sufferer is stressed or exposed to cold air.

Other symptoms of Buerger’s disease include:

  • Fingers and toes look pale, red, or blue.
  • Cold hands and feet due to lack of blood flow (Raynaud’s syndrome).
  • Hands and feet feel tingling or numb.
  • The tips of the fingers or toes have skin discoloration or small sores that are painful.
  • Skin color or texture change.
  • Blue in part of your face.

When to go to the doctor?

Check with your doctor if you experience the symptoms of Buerger’s disease as mentioned above. Early treatment of this disease can reduce the possibility of worsening and complications.

Buerger’s Disease Diagnosis

There is no method of examination that can specifically diagnose Buerger’s disease. The examination is limited to ruling out the possibility that the patient’s symptoms are caused by other diseases.

Diagnosis begins with an examination of the patient’s medical history, symptoms and risk factors, as well as a thorough physical examination. After that, the doctor will perform further examinations in the form of:

  • Allen’s test

The doctor will ask the patient to make a fist as tight as possible, then open it. After the fist is opened, the doctor will check the blood flow in the patient’s hand. Hand color that is slow to return to normal can be a sign of Buerger’s disease.

  • Angiography

Angiography is performed with the help of a CT scan or MRI. Before the scan is performed, the doctor will inject a contrast dye into the patient’s vein. This substance serves to clarify the picture of the condition of the blood vessels displayed by the monitor.

  • Blood test

Blood tests aim to detect possible causes of Buerger’s disease, such as lupus or a blood clotting disorder.

Buerger’s disease treatment

There is no cure for Buerger’s disease, but there are ways to relieve the symptoms. 

The most effective treatment is to stop the use of tobacco products, be it cigarettes, cigars, or other tobacco products. If necessary, the doctor will recommend the patient to follow a special program or therapy that aims to overcome smoking addiction.

In addition to avoiding the use of tobacco, treating the symptoms of Buerger’s disease is also done by:

  • Drugs

Giving drugs aims to improve blood circulation, prevent the formation of blood clots, stimulate the growth of new blood vessels, or dilate blood vessels (vasodilators). The dose and type of medicine will be determined by the doctor.

  • Operation

One of the operations that can be performed to relieve the symptoms of Buerger’s disease is a sympathectomy, which is cutting the nerves that cause pain. However, the effectiveness of this procedure in treating Buerger’s disease is debated.

  • Spinal nerve stimulation therapy

This therapy aims to relieve pain by sending small electric currents to the spinal cord. The electricity that flows will block the emergence of the sensation of pain.

Buerger’s disease complications

People with Buerger’s disease may experience gangrene of the fingers and toes. This condition is the result of blocked or cessation of blood supply to the area. Gangrene is characterized by numbness or discoloration of the fingers or toes to bluish or black.

If the patient’s fingers and toes have reached this phase, the doctor will perform amputation. Amputation is necessary to prevent the spread of infection through the affected limb, as well as to stop the pain.

Although rare, other complications that can occur from Buerger’s disease are:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Disorders of the blood vessels of the digestive tract
  • Peripheral nerve pain

Prevention of Buerger’s Disease

Efforts to prevent Buerger’s disease are to stop smoking and use other tobacco products. Patients who are addicted to smoking can consult a doctor about the need for therapy to overcome the addiction.

In addition, the doctor will also suggest several things to prevent worsening of symptoms, namely:

  • Avoiding the use of drugs that can trigger narrowing or blockage of blood vessels
  • Avoid exposure to cold air for a long time
  • Wearing warm clothes when in a cold place
  • Protect hands and feet to avoid injury
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet
  • Conduct regular health checks
  • Exercise regularly
  • Get enough rest

Dr. Eka

A doctor, wife and mother of three. Spread the world with valid information.

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