Did you know that your body has up to 100,000 miles of blood vessels? That’s enough to go around the globe a couple of times.
Although we have an enormous number of blood vessels, we shouldn’t take them for granted. The body’s main blood vessels — arteries and veins — require special care since they play significant roles in our respiratory and circulation systems. Arteries are responsible for carrying oxygenated blood away from your heart and toward the rest of your body. They are strong and thick and have a muscular middle layer that helps distribute blood throughout the body. In contrast, veins carry blood back to your heart against the force of gravity. They have one-way valves to ensure that your blood flows in the right direction. These valves open for blood heading towards your heart and close to prevent blood from pooling or flowing downwards.
If you can see your veins showing, don’t fret — visible veins are rarely a cause for concern. They’re only a cause for concern if they develop complications. Otherwise, visible veins are perfectly fine. They may even be the result of a healthy lifestyle.
Read on to learn when visible veins are healthy and what to do when your veins show.
When Are Visible Veins Healthy?
Visible veins are healthy when they’re the result of your lifestyle. For instance, your veins may show after you work out because of arterial blood pressure. According to physiology professor Mark A.W. Andrews, arterial blood pressure forces blood into the surrounding muscle, causing your muscles to swell and push nearby veins close to the surface of your skin. This process is more evident if you have very little subcutaneous fat.
You may also develop visible veins if you have fair skin and are middle-aged. As you age, you lose subcutaneous fat and collagen, making your veins stand out more. You don’t have to be concerned about your visible veins in these cases.
- Tend to be blue or green, not purple.
- Are flat and don’t bulge out of your skin. More prominent veins might bulge when you exercise, but they will flatten when you stop.
- May be faintly visible if you have fair or thin skin
- Don’t cause any pain or discomfort.
When Are Visible Veins a Concern?
Visible veins are unhealthy if they’re not strong enough to push blood back to your heart against the force of gravity. Since they’re too weak to maintain the flow toward the heart, blood will pool in your skin and legs, causing your superficial veins — the veins that lie closest to your skin — to swell, bulge, and become visible. They may even become discolored.
This condition is known as varicose veins. Varicose veins typically appear in the ankles, legs, and feet; they can be itchy and painful. You may also dislike the way they look. As a result, you may find yourself avoiding shorts and swimsuits.
How do you know if you have varicose veins? Symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Veins with a deep purple or dark blue tint
- Veins that bulge and have a twisted look
- Swelling in legs; edema
- Legs feel heavy, itchy, and cramped
- Burning pain in your lower legs and ankles.
If your visible veins are thin and red rather than thick and blue, you may have spider veins. Spider veins are a less severe version of varicose veins and appear as a weblike network of red lines on your skin. They don’t cause as much pain as varicose veins, but they can itch, rupture, and bleed.
Treating Unhealthy Visible Veins
Although they can be itchy and unsightly, varicose and spider veins aren’t dangerous for most people. They’re only dangerous if they combine with other health issues. Complications of varicose veins can include other health issues, such as blood clots.
Consult your doctor if you experience severe pain, itching, and burning. Your doctor will look at your legs while you’re standing or sitting to see if you have a circulatory problem. They will also ask you about any symptoms you have.
They may also do the following:
- An ultrasound: Your doctor will use high-frequency sound waves to see how blood moves in your veins. If blood is pooling in certain areas, you may have varicose or spider veins.
These tests help doctors eliminate other potential causes of your leg pain, such as blood clots or blockages.
After they’ve diagnosed you with a vein ailment, your doctor will advise you to make lifestyle changes to boost your vein health. Doctors often recommend:
- A healthier diet
- Stay hydrated
- Weight loss, so your body puts less pressure on your veins
- More exercise, often to improve your circulation
- Quitting smoking
- Using gradient compression stockings
- Avoiding prolonged periods spent standing or sitting
If these lifestyle changes aren’t producing the results you want, consider varicose or spider veins treatments. There are currently six treatment methods for varicose veins and three for spider veins:
For varicose veins:
- Endovenous laser ablation (EVLA)
- Microfoam injection
- Endovenous mechanochemical ablation (MOCA)
- Endovenous radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
For spider veins:
Most health insurance policies will cover the varicose vein treatments.
You can also try using creams for varicose veins. Remember to seek the advice of a board-certified vein specialist before you decide to buy or try any varicose vein creams.If you need help locating a medical specialist for varicose and spider veins, use My Vein Treatment‘s Find a Vein Specialist tool. Just type in your zip code to get a list of physicians in your area. Once you’ve picked out a specialist, you can ask any questions you have about your visible veins and possible treatments. Feel free to reference our tips for finding the best vein doctor in your area while using our tool.
- Andrews, M. A. W. (2006, November 13). Why do veins pop out when exercising, and is that good or bad? Scientific American. Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-veins-pop-out-when/
- Blood vessels. The Franklin Institute. (2017, May 19). Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.fi.edu/heart/blood-vessels
- Gabbey, A. E. (2019, March 8). Varicose (spider) veins: Causes, symptoms, and treatments. Healthline. Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/varicose-veins
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2021, January 30). Varicose veins. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/varicose-veins/symptoms-causes/syc-20350643
- WebMD. (n.d.). Arteries vs. veins: What’s the difference? WebMD. Retrieved December 29, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/heart/difference-between-arteries-and-veins