For some, veins are much more prominent than for others. It could be due to more translucent skin that the veins simply show through much more easily, or it could potentially be due to the size of the veins.
However, there is a point when the prominence and size can mean more, and that is when the veins seem to be bulging rather than just slightly bigger in appearance. Which brings us to the question: what causes bulging veins in feet? There are a few reasons why the veins in your feet are bulging, so let’s get into it.
What causes bulging varicose veins?
Varicose veins, frequently identified as bulging veins, can cause a host of symptoms such as pain, discomfort, and itching. This combination of symptoms and appearance impact our quality of life greatly. To understand why the veins in your feet may be bulging, let’s review the causes of varicose veins and how they can impact your feet.
The venous blood flow in the legs picks up the carbon dioxide and waste products from the cells. Since the veins work against gravity, they use one-way valves and muscle contractions while walking and moving to get the venous blood out of the legs and back towards the heart and lungs.
Physiologically speaking, varicose veins occur when the valves in the veins no longer function properly which allows venous blood flow to drop backwards towards your feet. Several factors contribute to varicose veins including age, family history, injuries, hormones, and pregnancy to name a few.
When we typically hear the term “high blood pressure,” we think of the disease process called hypertension which describes the arterial blood pressure being pushed to our limbs from the heart. However, in this case, the increased blood pressure is in your veins.
When valves no longer function, it causes the blood to pool in the veins which increases venous pressure, causing them to stretch, twist, and become what we know as the large, bulging veins called varicose veins.
Why are the varicose veins in my feet bulging?
So why do veins bulge so much on the feet? Sometimes normal veins can be more prominent on feet or hands simply because we lose collagen as we age and these areas in general lack the more robust soft tissue that helps support and hide veins in other parts of the body. Sometimes however, the bulging can be due to problems with increased pressure in those veins.
Veins in the feet may bulge for a variety of reasons, with one of the most common factors being venous insufficiency. This condition occurs when the one-way valves within the veins, responsible for directing blood flow back to the heart, become weakened or damaged. When these valves malfunction, blood can pool in the lower extremities, causing increased pressure within the veins. This elevated pressure can lead to the veins expanding and bulging, most notably in the feet and ankles. Additionally, prolonged periods of standing or sitting, obesity, pregnancy, and genetic predisposition can contribute to vein bulging.
If you think of a column of water, it would be under the least amount of pressure at the top and the most pressure at the bottom. It is the same concept with the blood in our veins. The venous blood flow closest to the heart will be under the least amount of pressure, while the venous blood flow at the level of the feet will be under the most pressure. Try lying on your back with your legs up – the veins disappear right? That’s because you’ve relieved the pressure.
Over time, these varicose veins and their associated symptoms typically continue to get worse. Common signs and symptoms of varicose veins include:
- Restless legs
- Skin changes
- Ulcers (in severe cases)
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, visit a vein specialist today.
Treatment for bulging varicose veins in your feet
While it is important to understand that varicose veins will not go away on their own, here are a few options that can temporarily help with the symptoms of bulging veins in your feet until you are able to see a vein specialist.
- Wearing graduated compression stockings.
- Elevating your legs when possible.
- Avoid standing or sitting for extended periods of time.
- Perform exercises that contract your legs muscles such as calf raises, squats or lunges.
- Take 15-30min walks, two to three times per day.
- Wear less constricting shoes that promote full flexion of your foot when walking (limit wearing wedges and high heels).
You are not alone, in fact, approximately 30 percent of the US population suffers from varicose vein disease. This is such a common disease process, most major insurances cover treatments. Once you have a consultation with your vein specialist, they will most likely recommend an ultrasound to determine the source and severity of your disease. Based on the results, your physician will recommend a specialized vein treatment plan which will treat your vein disease process.
So, what are you waiting for? You don’t have to live with bulging veins on your feet.
Medically Reviewed By:
Dr. Yan Katsnelson is a philanthropist, business owner, and highly skilled cardiac surgeon. He is the Founder and CEO of USA Vein Clinics, which is part of USA Clinics Group, the parent company of USA Fibroid Centers, USA Vascular Centers, and USA Oncology Centers, with more than 100 facilities nationwide. Dr. Yan has established himself as a strong advocate for accessibility and affordability of the most advanced medical care close to home. His mission is to create a positive experience for each patient with compassionate, personalized, and expert care.