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Vein between armpit and elbow looks like sticking out and noticeable with tightness and pain. Suggest?

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Pain Medicine & Palliative Care Specialist
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I noticed a couple days ago that the vein between my left armpit and my elbow, which feels like a long string of spaghetti, is sticking out and noticeable. This is not noticeable in my other arm. It has a bit of tightness and pain in my armpit when I lift my arm high and straight up. In fact, at my armpit where it sticks out, it feels like two veins... what is this? Oh, I did have a nurse try to draw blood from the vein at my elbow a couple weeks ago, and she stabbed me and missed, which hurt. She failed there and drew blood from my right arm, instead... no other injury that I know of...
Posted Thu, 3 Oct 2013 in Hypertension and Heart Disease
Answered by Dr. Kerry Pottinger 17 minutes later
Brief Answer:
Superficial thrombophlebitis.

Detailed Answer:
Thank you for using Healthcare Magic.
This is most likely to be thrombophlebitis of the vein resulting from the attempt at taking blood. This occurs when a superficial vein becomes inflamed and a blood clot develops within the vein.
This is not serious and usually goes away spontaneously. However, this may take a few weeks and may be tender.
If you are in pain, I would suggest warm compresses to the area and paracetamol or ibuprofen as necessary. If the area becomes increasingly reddened, if there is swelling or if you develop a temperature, this may indicate infection. In this case you would need antibiotics from your doctor.
You should continue to use your arm as normal.
I hope this has helped you, If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Dr K A Pottinger,
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Vein between armpit and elbow looks like sticking out and noticeable with tightness and pain. Suggest? 11 minutes later
Thank you, Dr. Pottinger. One more question, based on your answer: I didn't notice any inflammation right after the failed attempt to draw blood. Does it sometimes take a couple of weeks for the blood clot to develop in the vein or to cause these noticeable symptoms?
Answered by Dr. Kerry Pottinger 1 hour later
Brief Answer:

Detailed Answer:
Thank you for the further question.
Yes. It will not be apparent straight away that there has been significant inflammation. The blood clot will form immediately when the puncture has been made. The puncture will always cause a degree of inflammation. In some cases, such as your case, the inflammation travels along the vein and causes the thickening that you felt. This inflammation causes the tenderness along the vein as well. The time course is variable but it can take a few weeks to develop and produce these symptoms.
As I mentioned, this is not serious and the vein is likely to fully recover with no further problems. The signs of infection I mentioned only occur rarely.
I hope this has explained your symptoms adequately but if there is anything else you would like me to explain further please do not hesitate to contact me.
Dr K A Pottinger
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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