Common causes for distended neck veins include pulmonary embolism, constrictive pericarditis and a failing right side of the heart, according to Right Diagnosis. Distended neck veins can also be caused by pericardial effusion, restrictive cardiomyopathy or ventricular tachycardia.
Constrictive pericarditis is the swelling and inflammation of the sac around the heart called the pericardium. The sac tightens around the organ and restricts its function. The condition is sometimes mistakenly diagnosed as a heart attack, according to Right Diagnosis. Symptoms include chest pain, distended neck veins, weight loss, sweating and difficulty breathing. Pericardial effusion occurs when fluid collects within the pericardial sac.
Pulmonary embolisms are blocked blood vessels in the lungs caused by a blood clot, notes Right Diagnosis. Symptoms include chest pain, blue lips, dizziness, shortness of breath and neck veins that are distended.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy occurs infrequently in the United States, notes Right Diagnosis, and is a condition by which the ventricular walls stiffen and become inflexible due to the growth of abnormal tissue. The heart is therefore neither able to fill completely nor pump adequately over time. Symptoms include swollen neck veins and legs, water retention, weakness and nausea. An unusually rapid heartbeat caused by ventricular tachycardia can present with symptoms such as chest pain, palpitations and feeling light headed.