If you’re exercising, you may notice a throbbing sensation in your blood vessels as your heart increases the volume of blood it pumps and the force with which it sends it through your body. But what if you feel a throbbing in your veins when you’re not exercising? Is this something that needs medical attention?
At Northwest Houston Heart Center, board-certified cardiologists Dr. A. Adnan Aslam and Dr. Roy Norman understand that throbbing veins can come from a number of different causes, some mildly concerning and others potentially life-threatening. That’s why they encourage their patients not to ignore this symptom, but rather to come in for an evaluation to determine what, if anything, needs to be done.
Causes of throbbing veins
Throbbing veins may be caused by any condition that obstructs the normal flow of blood. One of the most common causes of bulging and throbbing veins is venous insufficiency, in which the vein walls or internal valves in your lower body become damaged due to injury or high blood pressure. That leads blood flow in the legs and feet to become sluggish or even stagnant, and the veins become engorged with the excess blood. If the superficial veins are affected, it leads to varicose veins, large, colored, ropy protrusions on the skin.
Accompanying varicose veins may be thrombophlebitis, the development of a clot in either a superficial or a deep vein due to inflammation. In addition to pain and irritation, the thrombus (clot) may partially block blood flow, causing a throbbing sensation as the blood tries to get through.There are two types of thrombophlebitis.
The first, superficial thrombophlebitis, affects veins on the skin surface, and the area over the clot may turn hard, red, and warm. However, the condition is rarely serious and usually resolves quickly with proper care.
The second, deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT) affects the larger blood vessels deep in the legs. These clots are much larger than the superficial ones and can seriously impede blood flow. In addition, parts of the clot — or the whole clot — can break free of the vein wall and travel to the lungs, a condition known as a pulmonary embolism. This condition can be life-threatening.
High blood pressure can also cause an aortic aneurysm, a bulging of the wall of the aorta, the large artery carrying oxygenated blood from the heart through the chest and torso. Along with the bulge, you may experience a throbbing sensation due to insufficient blood flow.
The problem with aortic aneurysms is that they can dissect or rupture. High pressure can split the layers of the artery wall, which allows blood to leak between them, a condition known as dissection. If the aneurysm bursts completely, it causes internal bleeding, an event called a rupture.
Peripheral aneurysms are bulges that form in other blood vessels in the body, including in the neck, in the groin, or behind the knees. These are less likely to rupture or dissect than aortic aneurysms, but they run the risk of forming blood clots and therefore carry the same pulmonary embolism risk as DVT.
So, do your throbbing veins need medical attention? The answer is unequivocally yes. Even if the diagnosis ends up not being too serious, early-stage conditions like venous insufficiency can eventually lead to potentially life-threatening complications, so they should be treated without delay.
To learn more, or to schedule an evaluation with one of our cardiologists, call Northwest Houston Heart Center at any of our Houston, Texas-area locations: Tomball, Cypress, The Woodlands, and Magnolia. You also can book online or text us at 832-402-9518.