You most likely have varicose veins if you notice bulging veins, especially on your legs. Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins near the skin's surface. Spider veins are less noticeable varicose veins that resemble spider webs.

Although not everyone with these conditions will have bulging veins, varicose veins frequently appear to protrude from the skin. Bulging veins may appear concerning, but they are generally harmless. They can make your legs feel heavy or achy, and in some cases, they can cause complications such as blood clots or chronic swelling.

Read on to learn more about bulging veins and how to treat them. 

Symptoms of Bulging Veins

One symptom of varicose veins is having veins that protrude above the surface of your skin. Bulging veins are most commonly found on the backs of the legs, especially near the knees and below. They resemble swollen cords and are blue or purple in color.

While bulging veins are the most visible symptom, people with varicose veins usually experience other symptoms first, such as:

  • Skin color changes, especially areas of blue, red, or pink
  • Tightness, soreness, heaviness, burning, or aching sensations in the legs
  • Itching, rash, sores, or swelling on the legs

The same underlying abnormality that causes bulging veins may also cause swelling in the legs over time. Speak with your healthcare provider if you notice swelling.

Causes of Bulging Veins

Bulging veins and other types of varicose veins form when the valves in the underlying veins fail.

When you stand, blood can flow toward your feet (it should flow toward your heart), and the veins can dilate due to gravity. This can cause the veins near your skin to enlarge, resulting in bulging varicose veins.

Although this may appear surprising, it is quite common. Varicose veins affect approximately 40% of females and 20% of males by the age of 50.

How to Treat Bulging Veins

Bulging veins do not always require medical attention. There are, however, treatment options available to help reduce symptoms, improve the appearance of your veins, and prevent complications such as ulcers or swelling. You should consult with your doctor to determine which treatment, if any, is best for you. 

Lifestyle Adaptations

Certain lifestyle changes or adjustments can aid in the prevention and treatment of varicose veins. These are some examples:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight: A higher body weight increases your chances of developing varicose veins. 
  • Staying active: Regular exercise and avoiding prolonged sitting or standing can help keep your veins healthy. 
  • Elevating your feet: Elevate the feet above the heart whenever possible. Do this for 15 minutes three or four times a day if you have severe bulging veins.
  • Wearing compression stockings: Compression stockings apply pressure to the legs, preventing blood from pooling. These are an especially good option for pregnant women with temporary varicose veins.

Medical Procedures for Varicose Veins

If your veins bother you or pose a health risk, your doctor may recommend medical procedures such as:

  • Sclerotherapy: Your healthcare provider will inject a sclerosing (scarring) agent into your veins during this nonsurgical procedure. After that, the veins will no longer carry blood, preventing it from pooling. Other veins in your leg will compensate for the ones that are no longer in use. This is the most common method of treating varicose and spider veins. 
  • Thermal ablation: This procedure closes off the veins with leaky valves by using heat generated by a coil and laser.
  • Vein stripping: This is surgery to completely remove the bulging veins. 
  • Microphlebectomy: This is a procedure that removes veins through small incisions. This can be done in conjunction with or without vein stripping. 

Varicose veins may reappear following treatment. Some preventive measures, such as exercise and maintaining a healthy weight, may help, but the reappearance is frequently linked to genetics.

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