Veins that bulge and protrude above the skin are often a concern for patients who come to see us at The Vein Institute.
In some cases, the veins are clearly varicose, because not only are they bulging above the surface of the skin, they are discoloured and have taken on the bluish-purple colour of the deoxygenated blood that have enlarged them, taking on the classic appearance of varicose veins. Other times the veins just bulge, displaying no discolouration, but for the people experiencing them they are still a cosmetic issue, so they come to us seeking a way to eliminate them.
Possible causes for bulging veins
Sometimes patients tell us that they’re concerned about veins that bulge temporarily, for only a few minutes, and then seem to go away. When we ask when this occurs, in almost every case the answer is “When I’m at the gym, and exercising.” As it turns out, this is natural, and nothing to be concerned about. As a recent article in Scientific American points out, these veins aren’t “bulging” from the inside at all, because strenuous aerobic exercise actually lowers pressure in the veins. What you’re seeing is the result of an increase in arterial blood pressure that causes plasma fluid to seep out through thin blood vessel walls and into compartments surrounding the muscles, which then push the veins towards the surface. This process, called filtration, is a normal physiological process that goes away when you stop exercising the muscles in question.
In some case bulging veins are caused by advancing age, because the aging process can cause veins to weaken and lose their elasticity. At that point they become enlarged and bulge. Veins can also bulge as the result of trauma or injury, the presence of a skin abscess or boil, or as the result of phlebitis, a minor infection caused by inflammation.
Bulging veins that persist for some time, however, are often the result of a vein condition called chronic venous insufficiency or CVI, which causes valves that are supposed to keep blood flow moving in one direction towards the heart to fail, and become “leaky.” This allows blood to seep back into the veins and pool there, causing them to swell, and thus become visible above the skin surface. Bulging veins – even if they have not become discoloured yet – can thus be an early sign of CVI, and an indication that you should visit a vein doctor.
Cases where bulging veins may be more of concern
In a few rare cases, bulging veins can be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. You should seek immediate medical care if you experience sudden bulging of the veins accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Skin ulcers near the bulging veins
These symptoms could be a sign of a blood clot, or of peripheral vascular disease.
Other than these instances, though, you can probably relax, because bulging veins are primarily a cosmetic concern. That said, the doctors at The Vein Institute can take measures to eliminate them, so if you have concerns give us a call at 1 300 535 017. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about them.