Buerger’s disease is an episodic inflammation of the arteries and veins. The cause of Buerger’s disease is not known, although it is commonly seen in men under the age of 40 who are smokers. It typically presents with symptoms related to a blockage of the smaller arteries in the tips of your hands and feet. This blockage can cause pain and damage to the local tissues. Oftentimes the symptoms will go away for periods of weeks, months, or years, only to return sporadically.
The disease is most commonly seen in men under the age of 40 who smoke. The disease is less common in women, who account for only approximately 20% of all cases.
There are several signs and symptoms which are characteristic of Buerger’s disease. The intermittent blockages of the arteries and subsequent pains often begin in the foot, and progresses up to the calf muscles. It is extremely common for the pain to be present while a person is at rest, although it can occur during exercise and activity as well.
Pulses will be normal higher up in the leg, however they will often be absent in the foot. It is common for only one foot to be affected at any given time. It is also possible for only some of the toes, or part of the foot, to the affected. Those toes which are effected by these blockages will often appear pale and cold due to decreased blood flow. If blood flow is obstructed long enough, it is common for small ulcer’s to develop in the toes.
A person affected by Buerger’s disease will often report a history of cold sensitivity in their fingers or toes.
Although the exact cause of Buerger’s disease is not known, there is a close association with smoking. It is important to discontinue smoking in order to properly control this condition. Any amount of cigarette smoking, even as little as one or two a day, and could allow the disease to continue. It is believed that nicotine in any form, including patches, chewing tobacco, nicotine gum, and even secondhand smoke, can be associated with Buerger’s disease.
Treatment involves taking care of the toes in skin on the feet. Treating ulcers in the skin is important to prevent them from becoming infected. Skin which does not have an ulcer should be kept moist and carefully watched in order to prevent further damage. Feet and toes should be kept warm as much as possible.
The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as Motrin or Advil, can be an important aspect of pain management. 81 mg baby aspirin’s are often used to prevent blockages to the small arteries by platelets.
In cases where toes or feet become chronically infected, it is possible that surgical intervention could be required. This only happens in severe cases where an infection becomes gangrenous.
Without a doubt the most important aspect of controlling burghers disease is to quit smoking. If you experience intermittent pains in your toes, feet or even hands, make an appointment to see your doctor. There are many causes of this type of pain which is not related to Buerger’s disease, and only working with your doctor makes it possible to determine the cause.