Bulging Veins

Bulging veins are prominent, enlarged veins that often appear blue or purple. They’re easy to see because they’re superficial veins close to the surface of your skin and typically occur on show up in your legs, feet, ankles and hands. While bulging veins are usually harmless, they can be a sign of a more serious problem like a blood clot.


What are bulging veins?

Bulging veins are visible and enlarged veins that are close to the surface of your skin. They seem to pop out from your skin and can be very noticeable. These veins might appear twisted or rope-like, and their color may be blue or purple. If you touch them with your finger, you can easily feel their shape. They can appear throughout your body but are most commonly occur on one’s legs.

If you notice bulging veins, you might wonder what they mean. Usually, bulging veins aren’t cause for concern. Many people simply don’t like how they look. However, sometimes they can signal a serious medical problem or lead to complications. So it’s important to know what causes your veins to bulge and when you should call your healthcare provider.


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Symptoms and Causes

What causes veins to bulge?

If you notice your veins are bulging, you might have varicose veins. This is a common condition that affects 1 in 3 adults.

You have different types of veins in your body, including deep veins and superficial veins. Varicose veins form when the superficial veins, the veins just beneath the skin, weaken. Increased blood pressure in your veins stretches them longer and wider. Your veins normally have one-way valves that allow blood to return to your heart. As your veins are stretched, these one-way valves stretch and blood becomes backed up in your veins. This worsens the stretching.

Common causes of varicose veins include:

  • Being assigned female at birth.
  • Hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy.
  • Having overweight/obesity.
  • Standing or sitting for long periods of time.
  • Smoking (which can harm the lining of your veins).
  • Family history of vein problems.

Besides varicose veins, other reasons why our veins bulge include:

  • Intense exercise. If you exercise a lot, especially by lifting weights, you might see bulging veins in your hands or arms. This is because exercise increases your blood flow and builds muscle. As your muscles get bigger, your superficial veins become more visible under your skin.
  • Low-calorie diet. As your percentage of body fat gets lower, your veins might become more prominent, especially in your hands and arms.
  • Getting older. While aging increases your chances of getting varicose veins, it can also simply make your skin thinner and less elastic. These changes make your veins easier to see through your skin.
  • Underlying medical conditions, like vasculitis or chronic venous insufficiency.

Management and Treatment

How are bulging veins treated?

Common treatments for bulging veins include:

  • Compression stockings.
  • Elevation. Simply lifting up your legs several times each day can help soothe bulging veins in your legs and calm any discomfort. Try to sit in a chair that allows you to lift your legs above your waist.
  • Injection therapy (sclerotherapy).
  • Vein surgery (ligation and stripping).

Bulging veins can’t be cured, but these treatments can help ease discomfort and make your veins less visible. Talk with your provider about the options that are best for you.


How can bulging veins be prevented?

Bulging veins can’t always be prevented. But you can help keep your veins as healthy as possible by:

  • Staying active. Walking around, flexing your ankles and stretching can help your blood flow better through your veins. This is especially important for the veins in your legs since your calf muscles help your veins push blood up toward your heart. Plan movement breaks throughout long days of sitting, such as at the office or on a long plane ride.
  • Quitting smoking. If you smoke, work with your healthcare provider to get the resources you need to quit. Smoking damages your veins and slows down your blood flow.
  • Shedding extra pounds. Losing weight can help lower the pressure inside your veins and reduce your risk of venous disease.
  • Wear loose clothing, especially around your waist. This helps by not restricting blood return to the heart from your veins.

Living With

What are the complications of bulging veins?

People with bulging veins may have a higher risk of developing blood clots. Having a blood clot can lead to serious medical problems such as:


When should I call my healthcare provider about my bulging veins?

If you notice any new bulging veins, call your provider and schedule an exam. Your bulging veins might be harmless. But getting them checked will ensure nothing serious is going on. Your provider will gently feel your veins and may suggest an ultrasound to check for blood clots.

If you notice the following issues with your bulging veins, call your provider right away:

  • Bleeding.
  • Discoloration or redness.
  • Pain.
  • Feeling warm to the touch.
  • Swelling around the area of your vein.

These signs could indicate a more serious problem.

Additional Common Questions

What is vascularity?

Some competitive bodybuilders want to make their veins big and noticeable. This process is called vascularity. Bulging veins represent strength and success in the world of bodybuilding. However, some methods bodybuilders use to make their veins pop out might be dangerous to their health.

For instance, blood flow resistance training (BFRT) has recently become a popular way to quickly gain muscle mass and bulging veins. BFRT involves using a tourniquet or pressure cuff to restrict blood flow to a specific muscle during exercise. Some researchers have even explored BFRT as a form of therapy for people with mobility limitations or chronic diseases. That’s because BFRT can help muscles grow stronger.

However, emerging research shows that using BFRT can be dangerous. It can add 5 to 10 mmHg to your usual blood pressure response when weightlifting. As a result, if you have any underlying risks for heart disease, this spike in blood pressure may increase your risk of having a stroke, artery dissection or heart attack. Before starting any new exercise plan, talk with your healthcare provider about the risks and benefits based on your personal medical history.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

You’re not alone in wondering what your bulging veins mean. This symptom is very common, and usually, it’s not a cause for alarm. About 1 in 3 adults have varicose veins, which is a common cause of prominent veins. But sometimes bulging veins can be a sign of a serious health problem, like a blood clot. So it’s always a good idea to call your healthcare provider if you notice any new bulging veins or changes to ones you’ve had.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/28/2022.

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