It’s understandable to feel self-conscious if your veins are visible, particularly in areas you’d rather they weren’t, like on the legs (many people show veins behind the knees) or on the hands. Good news is that veins can be treated to be less visible, but the appearance of veins with pain or itching can indicate a medical issue you shouldn’t ignore.
Why are my veins so visible all of a sudden?
First of all, if you’re fair-skinned, you will probably show more veins than your friends with darker skin tones. There’s a reason why flaxen-haired princesses in children’s stories wear dresses that cover them from the neck down!
People with low body fat will also show more veins. Conversely, weight gain also contributes to spider veins, those smaller, lighter veins that often appear in clusters, and varicose veins. Excess weight puts additional pressure on the legs, and veins expand to try to compensate to keep blood flowing normally.
But if you’ve noticed veins showing through skin suddenly, you may be understandably concerned. A sudden appearance of spider veins can be caused by:
- Intense exposure to the sun
- Hormonal changes
- Drinking and sometimes smoking
Intense sun exposure, especially sunburn, will cause veins to appear and sometimes pop up over the skin. Unfortunately, those with fair skin are most likely to see this wherever they’ve been exposed, including the face. Protect your face with sunscreen and a hat if you’re outside for more than a few minutes during intense sun hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Veins often make their first appearance during hormonal changes that cause weight gain, like puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. Women taking birth control pills may also see veins for the first time. This is due to increased blood flow caused by hormonal shifts, that also increase sweating.
Injury and subsequent lack of movement can cause a blood back up in the injured area, especially the legs. Lack of movement decreases circulation, with or without injury, and brings out spider veins. If you are unable to move, keep your legs propped up. For some people, even sitting with their legs crossed can encourage spider veins.
Drinking and smoking can also influence vein prominence, and again, those fair-skinned folks are more susceptible. Alcohol causes blood vessels to temporarily dilate; this is why you should never give alcohol to a person suffering from hypothermia in spite of the St. Bernard myth. Habitual alcohol use can make veins a permanent feature.
The same applies to long-term tobacco use, which sends chemicals into the bloodstream that deprive it of oxygen and actually thicken blood.
Are veins showing through the skin suddenly a sign of vascular disease?
A sudden showing of veins is usually temporary when it follows exertion from exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise, and hormonal changes like pregnancy. Persistent and habitual smoking and drinking, and long-term weight gain, tend to make veins more permanent features and are risk factors for developing vascular disease.
Veins that appear alongside pain, burning or itching, may be caused by blood pooling and should be evaluated by a physician. Pain will often cause veins to pop out as well.
Blue veins that appear along the chest are usually harmless but should be checked by a physician if you smoke, drink, have an enlarged abdomen, or live an inactive lifestyle. They can be a sign of fluid accumulation in the abdomen or liver cirrhosis.
If the sight of veins bothers you, you should know that they can be treated and removed. Contact our office for a consultation, today!