Can Vaping Cause Varicose Veins?

June 12, 2021 The Vein Institute

Most medical professionals would agree that the ill effects of smoking are well documented. In addition to damaging your lungs, smoking can impair your circulatory system and contribute to varicose veins, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and even coronary artery disease. Although it is still relatively early days for vaping, could it have the same impact? Can vaping cause varicose veins? Let’s take a look.

How does smoking damage the veins?

The main culprits in tobacco smoke are carbon monoxide and nicotine. Both of these substances can restrict blood circulation, particularly to the legs. When the veins cannot pump blood properly from the legs back to the heart, varicose veins are often the result.

Furthermore, smoking can encourage the formation of blood clots deep in your leg veins. It’s a condition known as DVT or deep vein thrombosis. DVT can be life-threatening if the clot travels to the lungs and develops into a pulmonary embolism.

Vaping also contains a cocktail of chemicals that can damage veins

Since becoming widely available in 2007, vaping has become popular with both adults and teenagers. Vaping has been promoted as a safer alternative because e-cigarettes produce water vapour. For this reason, many smokers switched from cigarettes to vaping, thinking they are less harmful to health.

This turned out to be pure marketing hype and it soon emerged that e-cigarettes contained a toxic brew of chemicals – propylene glycol or a vegetable glycerin liquid mixed with nicotine, flavourings, and other synthetic substances. These questionable chemicals raised concerns about the safety of e-cigarettes, and whether vaping could be just as harmful, or even worse perhaps, than tobacco when it comes to vein health.

Can Vaping Cause Varicose Veins?

A study has confirmed that vaping can negatively affect cardiovascular health. However, more research is needed to see if it can cause varicose veins.

According to a recent study published in The Journal of Radiology, the harmful chemicals in e-cigarettes temporarily “impacted endothelial function in healthy non-smokers.” The study was performed on 31 healthy non-smoking adult subjects. The details are as follows: After clamping a cuff on the thigh of each participant to restrict blood flow in the femoral artery and vein in the leg, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania closely monitored each subject’s blood flow with an MRI machine. After the cuff was removed in subjects before using e-cigarettes, within a minute, blood flow returned to normal levels to compensate for the temporary lack of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.

In the second part of the study, the subjects then took 16 puffs of an e-cigarette (which incidentally did not contain nicotine) and repeated the same process once again. A cuff was tied to the legs and blood flow was measured with an MRI. The results confirmed that post-vaping, the subjects’ blood vessels did not dilate as before and that blood flow was markedly compromised.

According to the researchers, there was “on average, a 34 per cent reduction in the femoral artery’s dilation. E-cigarettes exposure also led to a 17.5 per cent reduction in peak blood flow, a 20 per cent reduction in venous oxygen, and a 25.8 per cent reduction in blood acceleration after the cuff release – the speed at which the blood returned to the normal flow after being constricted.”

The findings suggest that vaping, even just once, can lead to immediate (but temporary) changes that have the potential to impair blood vessel function.

Diagram showing a normal vein vs a varicose vein.

Vaping can slow blood flow even without nicotine

What’s interesting is that vaping had adverse effects even if the e-cigarettes did not contain nicotine. This again, can be attributed to the harmful effects of heating up propylene glycol and the other toxic chemicals to high temperatures.

At the Vein Institute, your health is our priority. For this reason, we encourage our patients to follow a healthy lifestyle and to avoid substances that can impair proper vein function and health. For more on how varicose veins are formed: Varicose Vein Causes.

Seek expert advice

The doctors at The Vein Institute specialise in varicose vein treatment. We offer patients a comprehensive treatment program to treat varicose veins, with non-surgical laser treatment techniques. The benefits of laser treatment to patients are;

  • Walk-in walk-out treatment
  • 98% success rate
  • Extremely effective
  • Can be performed at a clinic (no hospitalisation)
  • No general anaesthetic
  • Medicare rebates apply
  • No downtime or time away from work

To book a consultation and discuss our treatment program, call  1800 429 470. Or, make an enquiry via the Contact Us page.


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