Having Lyme (and other illnesses) comes with lots & lots of blood tests. Things are constantly changing in the body & blood tests are usually the quickest way to detect these changes. Before getting diagnosed I had many years of doctors trying to figure out what was wrong...and that came with many many tests in itself. If I had to guess I would say on my road to diagnosis I easily got poked for blood 200+ times. The high estimate is due mostly to the fact that I have rather small veins which are difficult to hit/find. There would often be 3-4 missed attempts before success, and all the missed tries resulted in needles poking & prodding, sometimes even bursting a vein. This can cause veins to build scar tissue and callous over, which can make that spot/vein unusable.
With that being said, I know this is not an uncommon issue. A lot of people fighting various illnesses also struggle with their veins and getting a good blood return. It could be due to small veins, or it could be that the veins have been poked so many times they are getting tired of it.
Since I have always had trouble I went looking for tips online. I thought surely there must be something out there, but much to my surprise there was almost no information relating to this topic. So I wanted to put some tips I recently collected all into one place. Hopefully this will be easy to find for someone who needs it in the future!
1. Try doing curls with dumbbells. These by no means need to be anything extravagant. Maybe 1-2lb weights for a few minutes a day. You can even do this in bed. When you build these particular muscles up it pushes the veins up to the top of your skin & does 2 things: 1) makes the vein easier to access 2) makes the vein more plump & less collapsed. A common issue with veins if you are dehydrated, or if they are overused is that they collapse. Having the muscle built will help combat this issue.
2. Get as hydrated as possible. I know it's not always an option, like with me I get an IV when I'm dehydrated due to outside forces. But if it's optional and you know you are getting a blood draw try to get 2 liters in the day or two before to help. Hydrated veins mean more plump veins.
3. Put heat on the vein. Most doctors offices don't have this as an option, but heating up your vein helps a great deal by dilating the blood vessels & getting the vein to plump up. Since I get blood drawn at home I learned I have to take a hot shower beforehand since it gets everything perked up & going. I also have the ability to put a heating pad on my arms for about 30 minutes before. However if you are going to the doctor I highly recommend buying these "Hot Hands" which you crack & they release heat. Trust me on this, you will need these with you. They are ready any time and can be taken with you to place on your vein.
4. Don't plan a blood draw first thing in the morning. Veins are much more flat in the AM hours. If you do have to get something first thing in the morning then I recommend making sure you eat a full breakfast & take a hot shower beforehand to prep.
5. It can also help to gently slap or massage the vein right before the draw to get the to plump up. Key word here is gentle. After the nurse puts the tourniquet on your arm, it might help to pop it up.
Okay, those are the 5 tips! The times I had much better success with my veins were times I followed those guidelines. This last time we tried to start an IV I did none of the above & it was a hot mess. My arm went through a lot and ultimately no IV was started. I certainly learned my lesson since then! So if you are having trouble give these tips a try, and hopefully the process will be a bit more smooth.
I hope this information was beneficial to some of you. Have a great week.
This is a popular blog post, and as I have continued to have a lot of blood work throughout the years I wanted to let you all know that these tips have continued to serve me really well! Especially taking a shower and using hot hands on my veins, those two are the biggest contributors to success.
However, I have an important update for those of you who struggle with either of these complications:
- Veins rolling
- Useable veins are just difficult to find, but otherwise can be accessed okay (typically on darker skin tone)
Enter, VEIN FINDER! These gadgets used to only be used by certain hospitals and they were very pricey ($3,000+). However in recent years they have made them compact and affordable enough for the average Joe. Most hospitals and blood draw centers do not have these on hand, which is upsetting. But, I found one that not only helps find the vein via a special illuminating red light, but it also holds the vein in place so it doesn't roll! It's targeted for sale for nurses, EMS workers and the like, but if you are someone who has to get many sticks due to a chronic illness, cancer, dialyses etc, then this is worth its weight in gold. And it's not even outrageously priced! This Vein Finder perfectly holds the vein in place so it doesn't roll, and is magical. Even though I know exactly where my veins are this has helped make difficult sticks a rarity. I wanted to share in case anyone is in the same boat!