Collapsed Vein

What is a Collapsed Vein?

A collapsed vein is the direct result of intravenous injections that have been performed for a long-time (chronic use). This situation is often encountered in those who abuse drugs. It is said that every drug user will develop at least one collapsed vein during the time of usage.


The most common cause that leads to the appearance of a collapsed vein is the repetitive trauma at the site of the injection. Because of the repeated injections and the injury or irritation of the vein, an inflammatory response occurs at the level of the internal lining and leads to the blockage of the respective vein. The inflammatory response can be caused by the needle itself or by the substance injected. Sometimes, donating plasma can lead to similar problems. As the swelling is reduced, the blood can circulate again through the respective vein.

However, it is possible that the collapse of a vein become permanent. This is often seen with the chronic use of intravenous injections. The repeated injections, especially those that are performed with blunt needles, can cause the permanent collapse of a vein as well. The poor injection technique and the injection of substances that irritate the vein (such as liquid methadone, intended for oral use) can lead to the same problems.

The veins that are smaller in size present an increased risk for collapse, especially if too much suction is used when one pulls back against the plunger of the syringe (such an action is necessary in order to check if the needle is still in the vein). Together with the inflammatory response, such actions might lead to a blockage at the level of the respective vein. If the needle is removed too quickly after the injection, the collapse of the vein can occur.

Symptoms of a Collapsed Vein

These are the most common symptoms that can occur because of a collapsed vein:

  • Cold hands and feet (circulation loss)
  • Tingling or numbness sensation at the level of the extremities
  • Sharp pain at the site of the injection
  • Blue/black discoloration
  • Itching at the site of the injection (suggestive of the vein healing).

Collapsed Vein Treatment

The treatment can be successful only in the situation that the damage to the vein is not permanent. It is highly important to stop the injections into the respective vein, so as to prevent further damage. This will allow the vein with the necessary time to heal. Vitamin supplements can be taken in order to promote the faster healing of the vein. The inflammation associated with the collapsed veins can be successfully treated by taking vitamin C and rutin. The latter is a natural substance with healing properties and it can do wonders on a damaged vein. As for natural sources of vitamin C, these include: orange, lime, grapefruit, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and red bell peppers.

Apart from the vitamin C, one can also consume foods that are rich in bioflavonoids. These are known to improve the general health of the veins, reducing the inflammatory response that occurs at the level of the vein wall. Among the most recommended foods that contain bioflavonoids, there are: pineapple, papaya, mango, onion, spinach, beet and red cabbage. There are foods that can be consumed due to their rich content in antioxidants and fibers, such as: garlic, cayenne pepper, legumes, beans and whole grains.

Strong anticoagulants can be prescribed, in order to eliminate the blood clots that have formed a blockage at the level of the vein (blood-thinning properties). In severe cases, the surgical intervention might be the only solution available.

Avoiding a vein that has collapsed is often the only thing that can be done. In the situation that you need long-term injections, discuss with your nurse and ask for the blunt needles to be changed. Also, discuss about the possibility of the injection being performed subcutaneously or intramuscularly. Make sure that the injection is performed by an experienced nurse, so as the damage to the respective vein is minimized. Injections into the veins of the hands should be avoided, as these are small in size and they can collapse quite easily. The groin area should also be avoided, as there is a high risk for the circulation in the area being affected. If the site is already bruised or swollen, you should refrain from having injections made in the respective area. The area of injection should always be disinfected, so as to reduce the irritation to the vein (dirt or debris). Tourniquets should never be tied too tight, as they can cause the vein to collapse.

In the situation of constant drug abuse, getting help is mandatory to prevent not only the collapsed vein but also more serious, life-threatening complications. There are specialized rehabilitation centers that one can consider and all it takes is that first step.

The chronic venous insufficiency is one of the medical conditions that can lead to the collapse of veins. In order to avoid such problems, one has to avoid the long periods of standing or sitting. Physical exercise and a healthy diet are required for losing all the extra weight associated with the chronic venous insufficiency. Elevating the legs can eliminate the venous stasis, as well as wearing compression stockings. Surgical intervention might be required for the more severe cases, with stent placement being often performed.

What are the Complications of a Collapsed Vein?

The collapsed vein can lead to the formation of small veins, as you will have the opportunity to read below. Unfortunately, the size of these veins is not sufficient to ensure the same amount of blood in the area – this can lead to a series of complications, with the poor circulation standing at the top of the list. The poor circulation can, in its own turn, lead to the insufficient oxygenation of the brain (stroke risk), cardiovascular problems and kidney disease. The extremities can suffer from cyanosis, due to the insufficient oxygenation.


Once a vein has permanently collapsed, it will never recover. The body adapts to the collapsed vein by creating smaller veins; these are going to ensure the circulation of the blood in the area. However, these small veins cannot be used in order to perform intravenous injections or IVs.


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