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Buerger’s Disease: What Smoking Means for Your Foot Health

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By: KURU Footwear
Close-up of a woman breaking a cigarette in half with her hands.

Buerger’s disease affects thousands of people every year in the United States, according the the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). It can develop in people of any age race and age group. The one link that scientists have found, is that it is very common with smokers and people who use chewing tobacco.

Key Takeaways

  • Smoking heavily can increase the chances of developing Buerger’s disease, a condition that causes blockages in the blood vessels of the hands and feet, leading to tissue damage and death.
  • Diagnosing Buerger’s disease can be difficult, and ruling out other possible causes is important since immediate measures must be taken to minimize tissue damage.
  • While there is no cure for Buerger’s disease, avoiding tobacco products, staying active, and increasing circulation can help slow or stop the progression of the disease.

What Is Buerger’s Disease?

Buerger’s disease, also known as thromboangiitis obliterans, is a disease that causes blockages in the blood vessels of your hands and feet. This happens when those blood vessels become inflamed and reduce blood flow. Over time, blood clots develop and clog the vessels even more and heavily restrict blood flow. It then causes pain and tissue damage and in severe cases, tissue death (gangrene) because the tissues become starved for nutrients and oxygen.

Doctors have not been able to find what always causes Buerger’s disease, but there is a possibility that someone can be genetically predisposed to developing it. You increase your chances of developing this problem if you smoke heavily. Although it is not certain why tobacco causes this development, there is a well-documented relationship between the two. According to the experts at a large medical clinic, almost everyone with Buerger’s disease uses tobacco.

According to the experts at a large medical clinic, almost everyone with Buerger’s disease uses tobacco.

Symptoms of Buerger’s Disease

Initial symptoms of this disorder can include foot pain or pain in your hands during exercise or physical exertion, numbness or tingling in the limbs, inflamed veins, and a phenomenon where the distal extremities (hands, feet, toes, etc) turn pale when exposed to cold. Open sores on your toes or fingers are also common with Buerger’s disease.

Illustration of a doctor examining swollen feet and legs of a patient lying on a examination bed.
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Diagnosis of Buerger’s Disease

The difficult thing about diagnosing Buerger’s disease is that it can be mimicked by a wide variety of other diseases that cause restricted blood flow to your extremities. Diagnosis is more about ruling out the other possible causes, rather than pinpointing the problem as Buerger’s disease.

These other disorders should be ruled out completely because their treatments are very different from the treatment of Buerger’s disease. And because immediate measures must be taken to ensure minimal tissue damage, getting the wrong diagnosis can be risky.

Diagnosis is more about ruling out the other possible causes, rather than pinpointing the problem as Buerger’s disease.

An angiogram, an x-ray of blood or lymph vessels, of the arms and legs can be helpful in making the diagnosis of Buerger’s disease. The disease can cause the arteries to take on a “corkscrew” appearance that results from vascular damage, particularly in the wrists and ankles. An angiogram can also show any blockages or narrowings of the blood vessels.

Another test that your doctor may want to try is the Allen Test. This is a simple test that is noninvasive. The doctor will ask you to make a tight fist while they press on the artery of your hand. When you open your first and they release the pressure on your artery, the hand should go from pale to “normal” fairly quickly. If it takes a long time to get the color back, it may be an indication of Buerger’s disease.

Treatment of Buerger’s Disease

There is no cure for Buerger’s disease, but there is a way to slow or stop the progression of the disease. First of all, it is essential that the patient stops using tobacco products immediately. Avoiding cold weather and increasing circulation can also help with the symptoms. You can increase your circulation by drinking plenty of fluids and staying active. A good pair of shock absorbing shoes can help with some of the lingering pain during exercise. If you are in a lot of pain, the doctor may suggest cutting the nerves to the affected area through a surgery called a sympathectomy.

If you stop using tobacco products, you may see the symptoms caused by Buerger’s disease simply stop. The best way to treat this problem is through lifestyle changes, but you should not have to change everything. Small things like drinking more water, walking more and sitting less can help you a lot. That is why KURU has put so much work into making the world’s most comfortable shoe with KURUSOLE™ technology. They will make it easy for you to get up and get active!

No matter which activity you are wanting to do in your life, KURU has a shoe for you that will give you the support, comfort and style that your feet have been craving.

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