A child with a bleeding disorder is well educated to understand the important role their veins have in their body, as they get infusions of factor. However, an adult with a bleeding disorder can often forget the importance of veins, and more importantly vein care.
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood around the body. But for people with bleeding disorders they are much more; they are lifelines that literally carry factor around the body. Most children will have a port-a-cath inserted until their veins are strong enough to take regular infusions. However, once a vein becomes strong there is no guarantee it will stay strong forever. Veins, like most tools, can become damaged because of overuse, so it is important to take care of your veins as you grow older – it is never too late to start.
Why is it important to look after your veins?
It is important to prevent certain complications such as:
- Sclerosis (hardening of the tissue)
- Collapsed veins (As a result of overuse the vein swells and becomes blocked – this can take weeks to recover).
Some examples of how to maintain good veins include:
Find three of four veins that are easy to access and rotate between them when administering factor. If you have time to take your factor, use the more difficult vein. Never rush when giving an infusion. You may find you are much quicker when using the easy or “reliable” vein, but if you overuse this vein it won’t be reliable for too long.
Keeping fit and healthy helps strengthen muscles and joints which can help develop good veins.
The staff at the haemophilia treatment centre can help with some exercises to help build veins, but you can try the following:
Secure a tourniquet to your arm and squeeze a fist or a rubber ball in your hand. Repeat this twice a day every day for no longer than 5 minutes at a time.
If you are in hospital for infusions or blood tests, ask the nurse/doctor not to use your “reliable” vein. Staff are trained to access more difficult veins and this will provide some rest for your reliable vein.
It is important to know what not to do:
Do not infuse into an area that is swollen, inflamed or sore to touch.
Do not put pressure on the injection site until the needle has been removed.
As we grow older we begin to see changes in our body. Our skin can wrinkle and sag, our hands become less steady and our eyesight can deteriorate. All of these make infusing more difficult. Therefore, the importance of good vein care is vital
So don’t wait until it’s too late, take action today and take care of your veins.
Nuala Mc Auley,
Irish Haemophilia Society