Varicose veins, spider veins, and bulging leg veins are conditions that happen increasingly with age.
What causes these unsightly conditions?
Here are the different types of visible leg veins, what causes them, and 8 proven methods for alleviating their symptoms, reducing their appearance, and improving your overall vein health.
You can have healthier, better-looking legs!
The Purpose of Your Veins
Veins are blood vessels that carry blood toward the heart.
In the human body, veins serve several important functions:
- Return of blood to the heart. Veins transport deoxygenated blood from the tissues back to the heart, which can be oxygenated and re-circulated through the body.
- Regulation of blood flow. Veins contain valves that prevent the backflow of blood, which helps to maintain the flow of blood toward the heart.
- Regulation of body temperature. Veins are located close to the surface of the skin, which allows them to help regulate body temperature by dissipating heat.
- Storage of blood. Veins can store blood and release it into circulation as needed.
When Veins Go Wrong
Overall, the main function of veins is to transport deoxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs, where it can be oxygenated and returned to the body’s tissues. Sometimes, however, veins become strained – and this tends to make them more visible and less functional.
Types of Visible Leg Veins and Their Causes
Several vein diseases can affect the veins in the body. They sometimes result in purplish or greenish veins that are visible, because of blood pooling in the weakened vessels.
Varicose veins are swollen and twisted veins, usually visible on the surface of the skin.
They are most commonly found in the legs and are caused by a weakness in the vein walls or valves, which allows blood to flow backward and pool in the veins (the pressure on veins in the lower part of your body increases when you stand or walk).
Varicose veins are sometimes superficial – they may be unsightly but are painless and usually not dangerous.
Though less common, some varicose veins can pose a health risk – such as skin ulcers, blood clots, and bleeding – and they might also be uncomfortable or itchy. Your medical doctor or vein specialist can provide insight into how benign or problematic your varicose veins might be.
Spider veins are the most minor type of varicose veins.
Like varicose veins, spider veins are dilated blood vessels with weaker valves. These are small, thin veins that are visible on the surface of the skin. They are usually found on the legs and face and are not usually a serious medical concern.
Bulging Leg Veins
Veins become more visible without an ample layer of subcutaneous fat sitting right under the skin.
Deep Vein Thrombosis
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) is a blood clot that forms in a deep vein, usually in the leg.
DVT can cause pain and swelling, and if left untreated, it can lead to serious complications such as pulmonary embolism.
Venous insufficiency is a condition in which the veins are unable to pump blood back to the heart effectively. It can cause symptoms such as swelling, fatigue, and pain in the legs.
Phlebitis is inflammation of a vein, often caused by a blood clot or infection. It can cause pain, swelling, and redness in the affected area.
It’s important to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any symptoms of vein disease, as early treatment can often help prevent serious complications.
Potential Remedies for Bulging Leg Veins and Varicose Veins
Here are some methods to reduce the severity of your bulging leg veins or varicose veins.
1. Increase Your Level of Physical Activity
Sitting or standing for long periods can put undue pressure on leg veins and worsen symptoms.
A sedentary job may increase your risk of developing bulging leg veins – so can playing computer video games, watching television for long periods, desk-sitting, and numbed-out scrolling and swiping on smartphones.
- If you’re sitting down, try to stand up every 20 minutes and stretch your legs.
- Keep your knees slightly soft if standing up, and shift your weight from one foot to the other every 10 minutes.
- Take walking breaks whenever possible and walk around for at least 10 minutes during each break.
- If you’re at a desk, try doing calf exercises – such as heel raises – as you sit, or do a few minutes of core conditioning.
2. Wear Compression Socks or Compression Leggings
Compression wear has come a long way in recent years. In your grandparent’s day, ugly beige compression socks were the only choice – but today’s compression wear comes in all types, textures, and colors.
The idea behind compression wear is fundamental: specialized fabric applies pressure on the surface of particular parts of the body to compress and support underlying tissue. The hope is that this increases the body’s blood circulation and eases vein swelling.
3. Reduce Your Overall Percentage of Body Fat
If you’re unsure whether you’re overweight, you can use an online Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator to determine your BMI based on height and weight. A BMI above 25 is considered “overweight,” and a BMI above 30 is classified as “obese.”
4. Take Horse Chestnut Seed Extract for Varicose Veins and Bulging Leg Veins
Horse Chestnut seed extract is thought to assist in maintaining healthy peripheral circulation in the body while supporting healthy tissue fluid levels – including in the legs.
For example, Standard Process is a company that makes a capsule called Vascular Care Complex formulated with steroidal saponins (such as escin), flavonoids, lipids, sterols, terpene lactones (including ginkgo), and other phytochemicals – like butcher’s broom and rhizome. This formula is designed to assist in vein health.
5. Do Inversion Poses
Modern life presents certain disadvantages. From an ancestral perspective, our human bodies were probably not designed to stand and sit for long periods. If you are experiencing varicose veins, try elevating your legs above your hips for short periods (from 3 to 20 minutes, depending on your current state of mobility and fitness):
- While lying down, place pillows under your feet to raise them above heart level so that gravity can help with circulation.
- Try the “Legs Up the Wall” pose. Remove your shoes and lay on your side in the shape of an embryo, scooting your hips to the wall. Then, gradually roll onto your back and place your stocking feet up on the wall. To deepen this stretch, place a shallow pillow underneath your hips.
- Do a yoga handstand against a wall.
- Use an inversion table to hang upside down (be sure someone is home with you as a safety precaution).
These inverted postures help ease the body by preventing blood from pooling in the lower extremities and allowing blood to flow back to the heart more easily.
6. Take Diosmin for Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Diosmin is a nutritional supplement, available most often in a capsule formulated with hesperidin. It’s made from the extract of citrus foods and is purported to support blood flow in the body. It’s sometimes taken by those wishing to reduce symptoms of hemorrhoids or bulging varicose leg veins. Though some might have a negative sensitivity to Diosmin, it works well for many people.
7. Stop Crossing Your Legs
Crossing your legs can put undue pressure on your veins. Try not to cross your legs while sitting. Or, if you like to sit cross-legged like a yogi, place child pillows (you can find these in home-supply stores) in between (where one leg would touch the other), which will reduce direct pressure.
8. Increase Your Vegetable Intake
An anti-inflammatory diet is a lifestyle change in which you remove the foods your body finds subtly irritating and eat only the foods your body finds unquestionably empowering. Usually, this means a diet of mostly vegetables and quality meats.
In 2018, researchers examined the association between vegetable intake and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and venous reflux in the legs. The study included 3,218 participants from the Edinburgh Vein Study, who completed a food frequency questionnaire and underwent duplex ultrasonography to assess CVI and venous reflux.
Results showed that participants who consumed more vegetables had a lower prevalence of CVI and venous reflux in the legs.
Specifically, participants who consumed three or more servings of vegetables per day had a 41% lower odds of CVI and a 27% lower odds of venous reflux compared to those who consumed less than one serving per day.
Increased vegetable intake likely improves vein health. This study suggests that incorporating more vegetables into one’s diet may be a simple and effective way to help your veins work better.
On an anti-inflammatory diet, you’re encouraged to eat 9 loose cups of vegetables each day, from the full rainbow of colors.
Chances are, you’re eating a fraction of that.
A green smoothie is a blended drink made with vegetables, fruits, and nuts. The main idea behind a green smoothie is to provide a concentrated source of essential nutrients and fiber in an easy-to-digest form.
Some benefits of green smoothies include:
- Nutrient-dense: Green smoothies are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can help support overall health and protect against disease.
- Improved Digestion: The fiber in green smoothies can help promote regular bowel movements and support a healthy gut microbiome.
- Energy boost: The vegetables within a green smoothie provide a natural source of sustained energy – without the crash often associated with sugary drinks.
- Hydration: Green smoothies are an effective way to stay hydrated.
My weekly email update includes recipes and tips about green smoothies. Green smoothies keep you strong. They get all those vegetables – your daily servings of vegetables – into your diet that lengthen your life and improve your energy level.
Other Factors Contributing to Visible Veins
Genetics and age can work against your leg veins since these factors cannot be controlled.
Your family history plays a role in determining if you will develop bulging leg veins or varicose veins.
If your parents ever had this condition, it may also contribute to your risk of having it.
Older age is one of the main risk factors for varicose veins. Typically, people are considered at a higher risk of developing these symptoms if they’re over 60, but it’s possible to develop them earlier.
Veins have valves that prevent blood from flowing backward. As we age, these valves can be negatively affected due to a range of factors.
Tobacco Use and Varicose Veins
Tobacco use can increase the risk of developing varicose veins, so if you’re a smoker or chewer, you may want to consider quitting.
Tobacco smoke contains carbon monoxide:
- Carbon monoxide doesn’t allow your blood to carry oxygen and other nutrients as well as it would otherwise.
- Carbon monoxide also contributes to a hardening of the arteries, which forces your heart to work harder to move blood through them.
- This extra work can expand the size of your left ventricle, making it less efficient at pumping blood.
- With a weakened circulatory system, there’s an increased risk that pressure in your leg veins will be too high and cause bulging or twisting.
Try cutting back on cigarettes (or chewing tobacco); it could help keep your heart healthy and reduce your risk for varicose veins.
Leg Injury or Trauma
Leg injuries can also cause long-term problems for leg veins. You must see your family doctor immediately if you experience a deep cut or severe bruise. He or she may prescribe anticoagulants to prevent blood clots from forming in the area of the injury.
When Should I Worry about Bulging Leg Veins?
For the most part, bulging leg veins are harmless. They may cause discomfort; they may be unsightly. But, in general, you shouldn’t worry about them unless they:
- Cause pain or heaviness in your legs.
- Are accompanied by a swollen leg.
What Happens If Varicose Veins Are Left Untreated?
Although varicose veins are usually not dangerous, leaving them untreated can lead to various problems, some of which can have severe concerns regarding one’s health.
In cases where varicose veins are severe, this may indicate chronic venous insufficiency. This condition affects the ability of your veins to pump blood into your heart.
People who have varicose veins are at more risk of developing blood clots.
Can Walking Reduce Varicose Veins?
A lifestyle of good nutrition and physical activity can help prevent the development of varicose veins. If you already have them, regular exercise helps keep blood flowing smoothly throughout your legs.
How Much Walking is Needed?
Doctors recommend a daily walk for around 30-45 minutes.
Surgical Solutions for Visible Varicose Veins
There are surgical options for bulging and varicose veins. Usually, the veins are “stripped” (removed). However, if it’s just a tiny patch of spider veins close to the skin’s surface, then a simple shot – in which a salt solution is injected – can make them disappear.
Again, a qualified doctor can help you identify whether a bulging vein is enlarged or might be varicose or problematic.
Sources on Varicose Veins:
Leg Elevation for Bulging Leg Veins and Varicose Veins – https://stanfordhealthcare.org/medical-conditions/blood-heart-circulation/varicose-veins/treatments/elevation-legs.html
Exercises to Help Mitigate Varicose Veins – https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/best-exercises-varicose-veins
Horse Chestnut and Vein Health – https://examine.com/supplements/horse-chestnut/
Association of Vegetable Intake With Chronic Venous Insufficiency and Venous Reflux in the Legs: The Edinburgh Vein Study – Authors: Mark W. J. Strachan, George Davey Smith – Journal: JAMA Network Open, 2018