Painful veins

Updated on: November 28, 2018

Several medical conditions can cause painful veins. Some of these may be only cosmetic problems, while others can be medical emergencies. Painful veins can also happen with spider veins or varicose veins, especially after standing for long periods.

If you have painful veins, the feeling may range from a dull ache to more severe pain. You may also feel itching around the vein. For some people, the pain is steady. For others, though, it may grow worse while sitting or standing.

Causes of Painful Veins

Spider veins and varicose veins. A weakening of the wall of a vein can cause blood to pool, which leads to swelling or bulging in the vein. The vein may look twisted and often appears dark blue or purple in color. Varicose veins can form anywhere on the body, but are most often found on the feet and legs. Milder spider veins also show up on the legs, but are frequently found on the thin skin of the face. Usually varicose veins and spider veins are only a cosmetic problem. Sometimes, though, you may feel an aching pain near the vein.

Chronic venous insufficiency. Veins have valves inside them that keep the blood from flowing backward. When these are not working properly—and when the walls of the veins are weaker—blood has trouble flowing back to the heart. This can cause the blood to pool and lead to painful veins. This condition may also result in varicose veins on the legs.

Deep vein thrombosis. Also known as DVT, this condition is a blood clot inside a vein deep inside the body. They can form anywhere, but often occur in the lower leg or the thigh. You may also experience pain in the area of the body affected. If the blood clot is large enough, it can keep the blood from flowing. This causes the vein to swell (thrombophlebitis). A blood clot can also break free of the vein wall. If it ends up in the lungs, it can cause a pulmonary embolism, which is a life-threatening condition.

Cellulitis. This condition affects the skin instead of the veins, but you may feel symptoms similar to DVT. This includes swelling, warmth or pain in the affected part of the body. Cellulitis is caused by a bacterial infection in the skin. Certain health problems can increase your chance of developing cellulitis, including varicose veins or poor drainage of the veins. These conditions can make it easier for bacteria to break through the skin. If the cellulitis is not treated properly, it can become a serious medical problem.

Superficial thrombophlebitis. This condition is caused by a blood clot. It leads to inflammation of a superficial vein (just below the surface of the skin). It may also cause painful veins and tenderness or redness in the area. Superficial thrombophlebitis can occur when a catheter is inserted into a vein or when the vein is injured. Other factors can increase your chance of developing this condition, including sitting still for long periods, varicose veins or an infection.

Treatment Options

The treatment for painful veins depends upon the condition that is causing them. After a proper diagnosis, your doctor will help you choose the best treatment option.

There are several treatments available for spider veins and varicose veins, including:

  • Lifestyle changes. Several things may reduce the pain caused by varicose veins, including exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, elevating your legs frequently, and avoiding standing or sitting for long periods.
  • Compression stockings: These special stockings help the veins and muscles in your legs move the blood back to your heart. They work by providing constant pressure on your legs.
  • Sclerotherapy. This treatment involves the injection of a special solution into a varicose vein. A scar forms inside the vein which causes it to close. After that, blood is redirected to other nearby veins. You may need several treatments before the varicose veins are gone.
  • Laser surgery. During this procedure, a doctor uses strong bursts of laser light to close the veins. This treatment works best for spider veins and smaller varicose veins. It does not require the use of injections or needles.
  • Vein stripping. This treatment involves the removal of a long vein through several small cuts (incisions) in the skin. Your blood circulation will not be severely affected, because the blood can flow to other, healthy veins in the leg, especially the deep ones.
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy. Similar to vein stripping, this procedures involves a series of tiny punctures in the skin. The surgeon removes small varicose veins through these holes.
  • Endoscopic vein surgery. If the varicose veins are more severe—such as causing ulcers in the leg—your surgeon may choose to do endoscopic vein surgery. This involves inserting a tiny video camera into the leg through an incision. The surgeon removes the varicose veins through several small cuts in the skin.

All of these treatments for varicose veins and painful veins have some side effects. Before agreeing to any treatment, talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.

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