Alternative names: (Inflammatory) Occlusive Peripheral Vascular Disease or Thromboangiitis Obliterans (TAO).
Buerger's disease is characterized by narrowing or blockage (occlusion) of the veins and arteries of the extremities, resulting in reduced blood flow to these areas (peripheral vascular disease). The legs are affected more often than the arms.
Buerger's disease occurs predominantly in men aged 20 to 40 who smoke cigarettes; only about 5% of cases occur in women. Although the mechanism of the disease is unknown, the relationship of smoking to its occurrence and progression is apparent.
In most cases, the first symptom is extreme pain of the lower arms and legs while at rest. Affected individuals may also experience cramping in the legs when they walk that, in rare cases, may cause limping (claudication). In addition, affected individuals may have sores (ulcers) on the extremities, numbness and tingling and a lack of normal blood flow to the fingers and/or toes when exposed to cold temperatures (Raynaud's Phenomenon), and/or inflammation and clotting of certain veins (thrombophlebitis). In severe cases, individuals with Buerger's disease may exhibit tissue death (gangrene) of affected limbs.
Smoking is the cause of Buerger's disease: there is no documentation of occurrence in nonsmokers, implicating cigarette smoking as the primary cause. Recent work suggests that Buerger's disease may be a reaction to tobacco of persons with a specific genetic type or an autoimmune disorder with immune cell sensitivity to some collagen types, which are constituents of blood vessels.