Thromboangiitis obliterans or Buerger's disease: challenges for the rheumatologist

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Thromboangiitis obliterans (Buerger's disease)—a type of vasculitis in young, mostly male subjects—remains strangely linked to smoking, which determines its occurrence, progression and prognosis by currently unknown mechanisms. It affects the small and medium-sized arteries and veins of the limbs. Despite the usual absence of systemic signs and symptoms, initially intermittent arthritis, even if not observed in all cases, confer on this disease the status of a systemic vasculitis. Diagnosis requires the elimination of many other diseases. The severity of the disease lies in the need for amputation in more than a quarter of all patients. Complete cessation of smoking remains the cornerstone of therapy. Local care is the second essential element of treatment. Prostacycline analogues can be used to help the patient through critical ischaemia. Blockade with antagonists of cannabinoid or endothelin receptors and the use of gene- or cell-based therapy to induce therapeutic angiogenesis have opened up new possibilities for treatment.

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