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Coachrobmd, Internal Medicine MD
Category: Medical
Satisfied Customers: 1785
Experience:  •Fmr. Dir. Hep. C Clinic. •Fmr. Dir. Head Trauma Rehab Ctr.
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Blue veins showing in arms, shoulder and chest. Why?

Resolved Question:

Just noticed blue veins showing on my upper right arm, shoulder and into my chest.

Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Medical
Expert:  Coachrobmd replied 5 years ago.


Veins are blue because they carry blood that lacks oxygen. Arteries carry blood that has oxygen, so the blood is red.

If you look at the palm side of your wrist, you'll see a bunch of purple vessels, which are the veins carrying blood that has delivered the oxygen to the hand and is on the way back to the heart to pick up fresh oxygen. This is the cycle that keeps us alive.

If you have them showing up suddenly in your arm and chest, it could mean a blood clot has blocked the flow, and now they are sticking out more than usual.

Please realize this: I am limited to the information that I glean from your posts, as I can't see, talk to, or touch you. I can only give you my approach to the evaluation of your symptoms if you were in my office. That puts me at a disadvantage compared to your doctor who actually sees your body right there in the office. This is just the nature of advising across the internet. A specific diagnosis under these conditions is VERY difficult.

1. Keep your arm elevated as much as possible.

2. Apply ice to the skin 15 minutes at a time.

3. If it persists for 24 hours, then you should contact your primary care physician as there may be a problem that needs to be evaluated.

4. Avoid heavy lifting over 20 lbs with that arm for the time being.

5. This is probably a transient episode that will resolve on it's own.

It often happens when you get flushing attacks, are anxious, or have fear. This increases vein flow and they become more visible.

They often tend to bulge when exercising, as I'm sure you're aware.

So, this is NOT a scary or dangerous condition unless it persists and you start to have other symptoms such as sweats, chest discomfort, or arm weakness.

If those symptoms develop, then off to the Emergency Room for a check for blood clots.

If you have ANY questions about what I wrote, please write back for clarification. I'm happy to continue working with you toward a resolution.
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Customer: replied 5 years ago.

If I sleep with my hand under my head I get numbness. I also get tingling and numbness in my right hand when I am at rest sitting upright.

Expert:  Coachrobmd replied 5 years ago.

Hand under your head means it is getting the nerve pinches, which cause numbness or "Falling asleep". You shouldn't be kinking your arm and shoulder like that.
When sitting upright, if your arm hangs to your side, that stretches the brachial plexus, a group of nerves in your neck. That can cause the same symptoms. Rest it in your lap instead.
So, those are problems mostly of nerve impingement due to arm position. I get the same thing when I sleep funny or dangle my arms when playing golf. It's a bummer, but it always goes away.
If it is scary, a neurologist can be consulted who can do nerve conduction studies to assess how well those nerves are functioning, but it is rarely that serious or comes to that extreme.
Just keep your arms from stretching out your shoulder socket so much.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.

What about numbness in the hand and arm when any pressure is put on it?

Expert:  Coachrobmd replied 5 years ago.

Pressure on it where? It could be nerve getting compressed, as that is the most likely cause of numbness: compressed nerves. The brachial plexus in the neck may have been damaged due to arm stretching violently, and this takes a long time to heal.
Again, a neurologist can do an electromyelogram (EMG) of nerve conduction studies to assess the status of the nerve bundle and this will give them a working diagnosis.
For now, try not to twist the arm in strange positions or angle. And see your primary care physician for an exam so he can do a neurologic assessment and check your pulses to be sure the blood flow is adequate.