What is Duterte's Buerger's disease?

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 13 2017 12:31 AM

Among the many illnesses that a person can get from smoking is Buerger’s disease, which President Rodrigo Duterte previously admitted to having.

"I have this migraine every day…I have a lot of issues with my spine. What I have is really Buerger's disease. It's an acquired thing that you get from smoking, because of nicotine," he told journalists in December, amid speculations about his health.

Dr. Irene Vergara, a pulmonologist and head of the smoking cessation program at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, said that she once heard Duterte say he quit smoking after being diagnosed of Buerger’s disease.

That was a good step to curb the illness, she said on DZMM TeleRadyo’s “Magandang Gabi Dok,” as Buerger’s disease has no cure. It requires altogether avoiding cigarettes and other tobacco products to stop the condition’s progression.

The treatments prescribed by doctors are not for Buerger’s itself, but for symptoms such as pain.

“Ang nangyayari, nagkakaroon ng mga bara sa mga ugat, so walang flow [ng dugo],” Vergara said of the illness, which affects small veins and capillaries, and makes it difficult for blood to flow.

This can be bad for fingers, toes, and the extremities, because if badly affected, they can be amputated.

However, not all smokers can develop the disease.

“May iba pang factors, pero lahat [ng may Buerger’s disease] ay smoker. Hindi malinaw ang mechanism, pero iniisip na may genetic predisposition, nagdedevelop from exposure to tobacco smoke,” she said.

Buerger’s disease is not the only reason that doctors often tell patients to stop smoking.

Smoking, aside from causing lung cancer and Buerger’s disease, can affect the whole body, she said.

Heavy smokers can look older and are more prone to wrinkling due to skin aging, lose more hair, are more prone to cataracts and osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, infertility, and impotence.

The Department of Health has been pushing for Duterte to sign a nationwide smoking ban since last year, which would prohibit smoking in public places. While he was mayor, Duterte implemented a similar ban in Davao City.