Superior Vena Cava Syndrome - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of superior vena cava syndrome?

Initially, there are few symptoms, however, over time, symptoms of superior vena cava gradually develop. As the compression becomes more severe, the patient may develop shortness of breath and swelling of the arms and face. The symptoms occur because blood cannot return to the heart.

Without adequate blood return, it is hard for the heart to pump newly oxygenated blood to meet the metabolic needs of the body. If blood cannot return to the heart, it starts to back up and causes swelling of the areas where the backup occurs.

Less common symptoms include:

  • dilation of veins on the skin surface as the body tries to establish new circulatory pathways to bypass the blockage, and a blue tinge to the skin (because the backed up blood doesn't have enough oxygen content)
  • cough,
  • shortness of breath,
  • chest pain, and
  • hoarseness.
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See what others are saying

Comment from: lbuckland, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: August 12

My superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) started out with swelling of face, neck, arms, and veins busting out on chest and turning dark blue/purple. Also, I had red dots on right arm that had been there for months but the swelling just kept getting worse till my eyes were about closed and could not breathe. I went to the emergency room (ER) and was diagnosed with SVCS.

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Comment from: lbuckland, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: October 27

My face, neck and arms started swelling really bad, and then veins started popping out all over my chest and turning dark blue. The swelling got so bad had to go to the emergency room and was diagnosed with SVCS (superior vena cava syndrome) and am now on the 6th set of treatment of chemotherapy and next going for radiation on brain.

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