Why Are My Legs Veiny?

September 20, 2022 The Vein Institute

Considering that more prominent leg veins can indicate an underlying issue, it’s perfectly normal to get a little worried. But, legs get ‘veiny’ for a number of reasons. And they’re not always cause for concern.

For one, it might just be how you’re built

For example, if you have a paler complexion or a thin or muscular frame, your veins will be more prominent. 

  • Pale skin allows more light to pass through, thus making your veins more visible.
  • In slender people and in areas like the hands, the backs and sides of the knees, and feet, the veins stand out because there’s little fat to obscure them.
  • If you have a muscular, body-builder-like frame, your veins will be closer to the skin’s surface, making them appear more visible. 

So if you’ve had visible veins for several years, got them in response to weight loss or muscle gain, and haven’t noticed any significant changes (i.e., bulging, skin discolouration, achiness), there’s no need to worry.

It’s the result of normal bodily responses

On that note, your veins might have gotten more visible due to natural bodily processes.

Veins will stand out more during exercise

Man bending down at the gym starting to lift a heavy weight. His legs look veiny from the exertion

Man bending down at the gym starting to lift a heavy weight.

When you work out, your leg muscles demand more oxygen. In response, your arteries must deliver more oxygenated blood into the muscle tissue. As all that blood has to get back to your heart through your veins, the pressure within increases, making your vein walls expand and stand out more. 

The increased pressure also leads to plasma leaking into surrounding muscle tissue, causing your muscles to swell, harden, and push surrounding veins closer to the skin.

Lower leg veins tend to get more pronounced in the evening 

The veins fight gravity to get blood back to your heart all day, and after a few hours, it starts pooling a little. Pooling will typically happen in your hands and feet, as these areas are relatively far below heart level and have little natural muscle to help your veins pull blood out of them.

They dilate because of heat

Woman sitting in a cave near the sea.

Woman in a wide-brim hat sitting at the edge of a cave near the sea

Hot weather, hot baths, and hot showers spur increased blood flow, which in turn causes vein walls to expand and protrude more. Again, you’ll notice the changes most in your hands, feet, and around your knees.

Legs get veiny with age 

Now, this is a trickier one. When you age, your skin becomes thinner, and your vein walls stretch due to the constant fight against gravity. So, more pronounced veins in the legs, hands, and other places in your body is normal. 

However, because your vein walls become weaker, you’re also more prone to developing chronic venous insufficiency; a condition where your vein valves stop functioning efficiently, leading to reflux. 

If you’re over 40, we recommend keeping a closer eye on your vein health. First, you should start walking more, get compression stockings, and eat a more vein-friendly diet. And second, note any changes; if your leg veins become bulgy and twisted, you experience pain, itchiness, or burning sensations, or see skin discolouration around the affected area, seek specialist advice ASAP. These symptoms are varicose vein warning signs. And the earlier you seek treatment, the better.

You may have chronic venous insufficiency

As we mentioned, CVI leads to your valves malfunctioning and your veins bulging due to pooling blood. So in some cases, your legs will start looking veiny because of this underlying issue. 

Now, CVI doesn’t only affect older people. Weight, diet, lifestyle, genetics, and hormones also play a role. So, even if you’re under 40, keep an eye out for CVI and varicose vein symptoms. If you notice any worrying changes in your leg veins or surrounding tissue, it’s best to seek specialist advice.

In short,

Your legs may appear veiny due to a whole host of reasons, from the way your body is structured to exercise to the elements. Most of the time, it’s perfectly natural. But if you see dramatic changes in the vein’s appearance or start experiencing aches, fatigue, or itches in the affected limb, come see us for a consultation. 

We’ll take an ultrasound scan and recommend the best course of action depending on what we find. 

Call us at 1300 535 017 or fill out the form below to book.