If you regularly drink alcoholic beverages, you may be wondering about alcohol’s effects on veins. Unfortunately, excessive alcohol use can impact your health in many ways, including increasing your risk for vein disease, the underlying cause of varicose veins and spider veins. Too much alcohol can also make painful venous symptoms, like leg swelling, cramping, itching, and fatigue, even worse.
Below, we discuss the relationship between alcohol and varicose veins, and between alcohol and spider veins. If you have additional questions, we recommend consulting a vein doctor.
How Alcohol Affects the Circulatory System
To better understand how alcohol impacts your circulatory system, it may be helpful to review how it works. Your body’s circulatory system comprises the heart and different types of blood vessels –– arteries, veins, and capillaries.
Your arteries are responsible for transporting oxygenated blood from the heart to the organs, limbs, and other body areas. Your veins then carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart for renourishment. Your capillaries are the body’s smallest vessels, connecting your arteries and veins. A range of factors like aging, genetics, and lifestyle behaviors can place added stress on your body’s vessels and eventually cause damage.
A potential consequence of damaged veins is the development of vein disease, also known as venous insufficiency. This occurs when tiny, one-way valves in the veins cannot efficiently send blood back to the heart. Instead, blood begins to pool in place, most commonly in the legs, ankles, and feet.
This process can cause the dilation (expansion) of veins, leading to varicose veins and spider veins. It can also cause painful or uncomfortable symptoms that impact your quality of life. Finally, vein disease can place you at increased risk for dangerous health issues like deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and venous ulcers (open, non-healing wounds).
Does alcohol cause varicose veins and spider veins? Although drinking alcohol does not directly cause varicose veins or spider veins, it can lead to vein damage, impede circulation, and increase your risk for venous issues. We also want you to know that other lifestyle factors, such as obesity, inactivity, and smoking, can elevate your risk.
We recommend consulting a vein specialist for personalized advice on preventing varicose veins and spider veins.
How Alcohol Affects Your Varicose Veins and Spider Veins
Does alcohol dilate blood vessels? Alcohol causes the heart rate to increase and pump blood more quickly –– but while circulation speeds up with alcohol use, your vein valves can struggle to keep up and become damaged.
Alcohol also taxes your liver, which can cause the blood to thicken. This also contributes to vein disease and the development of varicose veins, spider veins, and other varicosities.
Bottom line: Drinking too much alcohol can impact circulation and contribute to the formation of varicose veins and spider veins. It can also exacerbate vein-related pain and discomfort. If you are experiencing poor vein health or are at risk for vein disease, it may be best to limit your alcohol intake.
Signs You Might Need Vein Treatment
While alcohol use is not generally recommended for those with varicose veins, it may be okay to consume in moderation (i.e., an occasional drink). Ask your vein doctor for personalized recommendations to determine whether any drinking is safe for you. Keep in mind that excessive alcohol use is never a good idea and should be avoided.
Suppose you drink alcohol regularly or sometimes participate in binge drinking, especially if you have additional risk factors for vein disease. In that case, we recommend keeping a close eye out for venous symptoms.
Common vein disease symptoms include:
- Swelling in the legs, ankles, and feet
- Tired, aching legs
- Burning in the calf or thigh
- Leg pain that improves with walking or elevation
- Itchy, dry skin
- Numbness or tingling sensations
- Difficulty standing for prolonged periods
- Open, non-healing leg wounds
- Varicose veins and spider veins
It is also important to watch for signs of alcohol abuse. According to American Addiction Centers, these may include:
- Poor coordination
- Slurred speech
- Impaired thinking
- Memory impairment
- Wanting to stop drinking but not managing to do so
- Diverting energy from work, family, and social life to drink
- Being secretive about the extent of the alcohol abuse to protect it
- Engaging in risky behavior, such as drunk driving
- Being in denial about the extent of the alcohol abuse problem
- Becoming distressed at the prospect of not having access to alcohol
If you wish to cut back or stop drinking altogether, we encourage you to do so. If you are struggling to make changes, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor about finding supportive resources.
Schedule Your Appointment at USA Vein Clinics
At USA Vein Clinics, we care about your vein health. Limiting alcohol use and generally following a healthy lifestyle can improve circulation, alleviate painful venous symptoms, and reduce your risk for developing additional varicosities.
However, we also understand that following a healthy lifestyle may not always be enough to prevent varicose veins and spider veins. For these cases, minimally invasive vein treatment may be beneficial. Our highly skilled vein doctors perform a range of non-surgical, office-based treatments at over 100 clinics nationwide.
Although our treatment methods vary between patients, they all have a similar goal. We aim to seal off blood flow from diseased veins and reroute it to healthy, surrounding ones. Over time, treated veins are reabsorbed by the body. Most of our treatments take less than an hour, from start to finish. You can leave immediately afterward and return to most normal activities.
For your convenience, we offer virtual doctor visits for initial consultations. When you come into one of our state-of-the-art clinics, rest assured that we are closely following pandemic safety protocols to protect the health of our patients and healthcare workers.
Simply schedule an appointment online to learn more about how vein treatment can improve your quality of life.