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Health Information Center

Buerger Disease

  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:


Buerger Disease

(Thromboangiitis Obliterans)


Buerger disease is the swelling and blockage of blood vessels. This reduces blood flow and can lead to tissue damage. It mainly affects the vessels in the hands and feet.


The exact cause is not known. It is strongly linked to tobacco use. The link is not well understood.

Risk Factors

This risk of Buerger disease is higher in people who smoke, especially young males. This includes smoking cigarettes, using chewing tobacco, smoking cigars, or using any other type of tobacco.


Poor blood flow to the hands and feet may cause:

  • Pain, numbness, burning, and tingling
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Changes in skin color (white, red, or bluish hands or feet)

Buerger disease can lead to sores and swelling under the skin. People with severe symptoms may have tissue death (gangrene). Gangrene causes skin in the hands and feet to turn black.

Tissue Death in the Foot.

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The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. Buerger disease is hard to diagnose because it is similar to other health conditions.

Blood tests may be done to rule out other problems.

Blood vessels may be checked with an angiogram.


The goal of treatment is to stop Buerger disease from getting worse. There is no cure. All tobacco products must be stopped to prevent more harm. There are many things that can help a person quit.

Other treatments include:

  • Medicine to:
    • Help blood flow
    • Dissolve clots
    • Lower blood pressure
  • Wound care to help with skin healing
  • Surgery to control pain and increase blood flow

People with severe disease may need to have an amputation to remove dead tissue. This is more common in people who do not stop smoking.


The risk of Buerger disease can be lowered by not using tobacco products.





  • Buerger’s disease. The Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsvasculitis.org/types-vasculitis/buergers-disease.
  • Buerger’s disease. Vasculitis Foundation website. Available at: https://www.vasculitisfoundation.org/education/forms/buergers-disease.
  • Buerger’s disease (thromboangitis obliterans). UC Davis Health System website. Available at: https://health.ucdavis.edu/vascular/diseases/buergers_disease.html.
  • Smoking and Buerger's disease. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/buergers-disease.html.
  • Thromboangiitis obliterans. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/thromboangiitis-obliterans.


  • James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.