What causes vein pain?

Vein pain can result from a variety of causes, ranging from mild to severe. Commonly, vein pain in the legs occurs due to poor circulation, varicose veins, or cellulitis, a common bacterial skin disease. Vein pain in other parts of the body can be related to the outside temperature or muscle strain. In severe cases, vein pain can result from thrombophlebitis (vein swelling due to a blood clot) or a thromboembolism (a potentially life-threatening blood inflammation and clot in the veins).

Circulatory system causes of vein pain

Vein pain may be caused by problems with blood circulation including:

  • Chronic venous insufficiency (poor blood flow through the veins)
  • Thrombophlebitis (inflammation, swelling and clotting of the veins)
  • Varicose veins

Other causes of vein pain

Vein pain can also arise from:

  • Cellulitis (common bacterial skin infection)
  • Muscle aches

Serious or life-threatening causes of vein pain

In some cases, vein pain may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting, such as deep vein thrombosis (a blood clot in a leg vein that can break loose and cause a pulmonary embolism in the lung or a heart attack or stroke).

Questions for diagnosing the cause of vein pain

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your vein pain including:

  • Are you at risk of developing blood clots?
  • Do you have any other symptoms, such as enlarged or visible veins?
  • How long has your pain persisted?
  • What medications are you taking?
  • When did you first notice your vein pain?
  • Where do you feel your vein pain?

What are the potential complications of vein pain?

While in most cases vein pain is mild and arises from poor circulation, it can indicate a more serious condition, such as a blood clot. Potential complications of severe conditions leading to vein pain include:

  • Adverse effects of treatment
  • Chronic venous insufficiency
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the leg that can break loose from the leg and cause a pulmonary embolism in the lung, a heart attack, or stroke)
  • Postphlebitic syndrome
  • Progression of symptoms
  • Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
  • Stroke


  1. Varicose veins and venous insufficiency. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002099/.
  2. Varicose veins and spider veins fact sheet. WomensHealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/varicose-spider-veins.html.
  3. Bergan JJ, Schmid-Schönbein GW, Smith PD, et al. Chronic venous disease. N Engl J Med 2006; 355:488.
  4. Raju S, Neglen P. Clinical practice. Chronic venous insufficiency and varicose veins. N Engl J Med. 2009; 360:2319-27.
  5. Goodacre S. In the clinic. Deep venous thrombosis. Ann Intern Med 2008; 149:ITC3.

What is vein pain?

Vein pain is a symptom in which veins are achy or painful. It is especially common in the legs and may occur with varicose veins or venous insufficiency (poor circulation).

Vein pain may indicate a serious condition, such as deep vein thrombosis, which is a blood clot in the leg that can break loose from the leg and cause a pulmonary embolism in the lung, or a heart attack or stro... Read more about vein painintroduction


What other symptoms might occur with vein pain?

Vein pain may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition.

Leg symptoms that may occur along with vein pain

Vein pain may accompany other symptoms that result from varicose veins or venous insufficiency (poor circulation) including:

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation