Buerger’s disease is the result of frequent inflammation of the arteries or (less frequent) veins that ultimately cause thrombosis (blood clot in blood vessels) and circulation disorder. Because of thrombosis of the artery, blood does not reach the tissue and therefore the tissue is dying.
Thrombosis in the vein prevents the return of blood to the heart so the tissues, from which blood can not flow, swell.
Buerger’s disease can affect any of the blood vessels, but most commonly affects the legs. The cause of frequent inflammation, after which thrombosis is formed, is not known. It may be a disorder of connective tissue in the blood vessels walls – connective tissue that is mainly composed of collagen.
Symptoms depend on the affected area. The most common symptoms are the feeling of coldness and pain in the legs. The pain can be felt after the movement, and usually disappear when a person is resting. Tingling in the feet can also be felt, and painful heat if the disease affected the veins. If the arteries are affected, it can lead to developing of the wounds or, moreover, dry gangrene. Other possible symptoms are the symptoms of Raynaud’s phenomenon, which are sometimes the result of Buerger’s disease.
The disease is rare. It most commonly affects men, smokers, between 25 and 45 years of age.
The greatest danger comes from possible leg gangrene and, sometimes, arm gangrene – which may require amputation. Arteriosclerosis is also dangerous. In severe cases of vein illness, thrombophlebitis may develop.
What to do?
If you have any of the symptoms described, contact your doctor. He will refer you to blood tests to determine the level of cholesterol in your blood; the level is normal or low in Buerger’s disease (it will be high if the cause of the symptoms is arteriosclerosis). To determine the location and nature of the circulatory disturbances, your doctor will most likely refer you to an arteriography.
Self-help: since smoking increases the frequency of seizures, do not smoke. Never expose your hands and feet to extreme cold and let the pedicurist takes care of your nails; any possible injury you make while cutting your nails can lead to infection and end up with a gangrene.
Professional help: a doctor may prescribe a vasodilator (a medicine that widens the blood vessels) to relieve pain or surgery (cutting the nervers responsible for tightening of the blood vessels). However, none of these measures is a guarantee for a problem solving. If gangrene occurs, the amputation of the affected part may become inevitable. But, the odds do not have to be so black. Although Buerger’s disease can cause some degree of disability, it quite often happens that the disease itself disappears after several years.