More visible veins on hormonal birth control?
October 12, 2014 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I am currently taking Lo Loestrin Fe (low estrogen pill), which I've only been taking for seven days now. I noticed last night that my veins in my wrists are a lot more visible than usual. This morning in the shower, the same was true of the veins in my feet and legs. They are more visible and I can see some of them pretty bright blue.

Is this something to be concerned about? I don't see anything about it in the product insert or after searching the internet for awhile (which in itself is not a great idea when you're concerned about a minor body change). I did find a thread where women were talking about how leg cramps/muscle soreness on the pill is a common experience to many women who don't have blood clots or DVT, it just seems to be an underreported side effect, or something. I'm 25 and don't smoke.

I have also been having some random/weird tingling and achiness in random places in my arms and legs lately. However, as a recovering hypochondriac who is constantly having tingling, soreness, random shooting pains, whatever, I am pretty loathe to go into the ER with no specific complaint. Additionally, I have gotten back into running lately (so leg soreness is not that shocking), I have been drinking coffee lately (so completely random tingliness/whatever is not a surprise), and I have pretty easily triggered health anxiety (so shortness of breath and numbness in my limbs happens basically every time I have a health concern).

I am going to call the doctor tomorrow and try to see someone ASAP, though I am pretty tired of going in to the doctor, stating my symptoms, and being told they are probably nothing and sent home with no reassurance. This has happened to me in the past with my gastrointestinal problems and I could see it happening again when I say "I started birth control and my veins are blue!!" Durr. Anything I should specifically address with the doctor? I have no localized leg pain so far. I do have some very mild chest tightness/pain, but I've had weird random chest pains all my life. (I think this may be coffee-related. Of course it's scary nonetheless.)

I know DVT can present as anything from "ahh the searing pain I can't move my leg" to no symptoms at all, so... I don't know how concerned I should be. (Also, a cousin on my dad's side of the family did have blood clots while taking HBC, I don't know if that is relevant family history or not.) I have been on the pill with no problems in the past (the generics Chateal/Levora and a few others), and I know this is a low-risk pill due to the low dose of estrogen. Trying to tell myself I'm being an idiot which is normally what I do when I have health anxiety, but I don't want to be an idiot with a blood clot.
posted by stoneandstar to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Birth control can affect your blood pressure, so go in, get a quick blood pressure check, and be reassured. Of course caffeine also has a significant effect on your blood pressure...and your anxiety. Might want to reconsider the caffeine! Good luck.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:48 PM on October 12, 2014


Also, you might have a DVT with no symptoms. The biggest part of dealing with health anxiety is not adding knowledge, but rather learning to accept and tolerate the fact that you are unable to know. And quitting the caffeine :)
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:59 PM on October 12, 2014


Hi there,
I'm sorry to hear about your condition, and as someone who has suffered from anxiety, I can appreciate how distressing this can be.

I'm not going to directly answer your question, but I wanted to mention something that might be useful to you more generally. As you know, blood clots can be quite serious, and it would be irresponsible for some random person on the internet to make a comment about this one way or the other; if you suspect blood clots, you should go to an emergency room; asking about potential medical emergencies in this sort of forum is, in my opinion, highly imprudent.

OK, on to the more general comment: people who suffer anxiety often seek out reassurance from others as a way of trying to deal with their distressing feelings. It feels great when someone reassures us that the thing we are upset about is not actually dangerous. Unfortunately, that good feeling is transitory; almost immediately, new fears start to plague us, and we often ask again for reassurance. And the cycle continues.

Seeking reassurance is actually a big part of the problem; it makes the anxiety worse. The solution is to stop seeking reassurance. Learn how to sit with those feelings of anxiety. Of course, this is complicated when you have anxiety about medical conditions because it is important to be proactive when seeking treatment and sometimes second opinions are necessary, etc. But you have to find some middle ground: find a well thought of doctor, go regularly for physicals, and seek treatment for your anxiety either with a psychologist or a psychiatrist.
posted by girl flaneur at 1:02 PM on October 12, 2014 [3 favorites]


Hi all! Two things:

1) the young rope-rider, thanks! I was wondering about blood pressure and birth control, actually, and that is interesting to know. I will call the doctor and get checked out tomorrow. And good advice about the caffeine-- I don't drink coffee daily anymore but did some coffee tourism this weekend and it is having a pretty obvious impact. :)

2) Advice about health anxiety is welcome/appreciated, but what I am actually curious about is whether more visible veins is a normal side effect of HBC, or if it has any apparent cause? I will speak to my doctor about it next time I go in regardless but I don't seem to be able to find any information about this. Sorry for the paragraphs of anxiety run amok, but most of this is triggered by the weird vein thing.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:05 PM on October 12, 2014


I don't have an authoritative answer, but I do know that in general, pregnancy can effect skin pigmentation, so I would not be too surprised to find out that hormonal birth control can have an effect on that.
posted by bq at 1:10 PM on October 12, 2014


I get them when I'm anxious and presumably my BP is higher than normal, though not dangerously high. So panic attack = more prominent veins.

So to me, it's about a billion times more likely to be a side effect of caffeine and/or anxiety, but since high blood pressure can be a side effect of hormonal birth control and it's a quick, non-invasive check, it's probably worth a quick checkup. Nothing you've said really sounds ER-worthy at all and I'd avoid that unless a doctor tells you unequivocally to go.

I have health anxiety that is currently under control, and in your shoes I'd have a beer, distract myself with some TV, and a few caffeine-free days later I'd consider a BP check. YMMV.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:17 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I don't want to discount anything you're feeling, but I also want to gently suggest that if you're a white person in North America, you may be living somewhere with colder weather, and thus you may have recently ceased getting any kind of tan on your arms/legs. So the more visible veins may just be a consequence of you getting paler as winter comes along.
posted by BlahLaLa at 2:14 PM on October 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


1) Is it a common thing with HBC? I have never heard of it being a thing and see no logical reason for it to be.
2) Is it something to be concerned about? I have never heard of it being anything to worry about, and see no logical reason for it to be.

Increased blood pressure and HBC is a thing - my doctor checks every year when I refill the prescription and has mentioned that it's a problem for some people, especially smokers. So it's a good thing to keep tabs on, although I really would not be that worried about it without any actual symptoms. Even then, I've never heard of a link between high blood pressure and more colourful veins, and don't see why there would be one. More bulging veins, maybe.

If it helps, this is coming from someone who's been on HBC for almost 10 years, has had no health problems in that time (but still tends to health anxiety), has blood pressure and other cardiovascular markers in the ideal range, and who's had extremely visible bright blue veins my entire life, with no apparent changes from before starting HBC. They do get much more visible around this time of year though, I assume due to less time in the sun.
posted by randomnity at 3:30 PM on October 12, 2014


Some pharmacies offer blood pressure checks, so you could consider going wherever you get your BC prescription filled and seeing if they offer this. I've suffered health related anxiety in the past, and my experience has been doctors taking me less seriously if i came in too much, so being able to do this somewhere else is an advantage.

I'm not on the pill at the moment but when I was, I had terrible leg cramps. They were kind of like what I sometimes get during my period when not on the pill, just quite a bit stronger. I think it's often just a harmless side effect related to how hormones affect muscles?

If you're worried about clots: drink lots of water, don't be too sedentary, be aware of obvious symptoms of clots (swelling, very sore legs, etc). But the reality is that life is full of risks and relatively speaking, clots are rare especially if you're young, healthy and a non-smoker. Finding coping strategies for accepting that there's only so much you can do about it would probably be very helpful.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 5:14 PM on October 12, 2014


I had markedly more visible veins after I gave birth to my daughter and my hormones were haywire. I'm not just talking blue, I'm talking bulging on my wrists and the back of my hands like fat earth worms. I promptly panicked a lot a little and then realized that it was happening while I was either taking a shower or washing dishes. So, for me, it was both the hormones and the heat that was triggering it.

As a fellow anxious lady, I'd get my blood pressure checked and then try to put it out of my mind. I say this with all thee sympathy in the world, I feel you.
posted by lydhre at 5:18 PM on October 12, 2014


I suggest not checking your blood pressure while you are feeling very anxious (and while you are experiencing pain). It's guaranteed to be high. And I especially encourage you not to then keep rechecking and rechecking your blood pressure, getting more and more anxious as you see the numbers climb higher and higher, as it tends to do the more upset you get about it. I've seen too many people drive themselves into a panic attack/unnecessary ER visit this way.

Hormones definitely affect your vascular system… I wouldn't try to dissect this on your own any further than that. Talk to your doctor about it. Can you e-mail or send an electronic message to your doctor, and save yourself a visit? I think you're probably right about your prediction of potential outcome if you made a visit, but I don't want to dissuade you from getting all your questions answered.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:08 PM on October 12, 2014


If you do contact your doctor, you might want to be more specific about your concern, as well - after all, your veins are supposed to be blue, and it would be hard to know how to respond to your complaint as phrased above.

To be clear, I mean using "more prominent veins" rather than "my veins are blue!" :-)
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:09 PM on October 12, 2014


Update: I saw the doctor today due to needing to recalibrate some medications anyway. She confirmed that more visible veins is a common result of estrogen. Question answered! (She also took my vitals and I am all good, even my blood pressure is just fine.)
posted by stoneandstar at 6:12 PM on October 15, 2014


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