Thromboangiitis obliterans is a rare disease in which blood vessels of the hands and feet become blocked.
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.
The condition may also be related to a history of Raynaud's disease.
This disorder is very uncommon in children, but it may occur in children with autoimmune diseases.
Note: Symptoms may worsen with exposure to cold or with emotional stress. Usually, two or more limbs are affected.
The hands or feet may have large, red, tender blood vessels. The pulse in the affected hands or feet may be low or missing.
The following tests may show blockage of blood vessels in the affected hands or feet:
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.
Call your health care provider if:
Those with a history of Raynaud's disease or thromboangiitis obliterans should avoid all tobacco use.
Olin JW. Other peripheral arterial diseases. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 80.