Most of us have seen a vein or two pop out over the skin at some point. This is normal during exercise or exertion, or when an arm is tied off before donating blood or submitting a blood test.
In these situations, a vein pop-up isn’t an unpleasant surprise. More often, the question “why do my veins pop out?” comes up when we weren’t expecting to see any at all – in a fitting room trying on a new swimsuit, for example.
Bulging veins may be perfectly normal
It may be hard to accept, but there are times when it’s normal for veins to pop out without encouragement from tourniquets or the weightlifting machines.
Exercise, particularly weight lifting, resistance training, cycling, and running causes a rise in blood pressure that pumps blood to muscles, enlarging veins to the point where they may pop out a bit. Bodybuilders strive for this effect. Top bodybuilders have very low body fat, so their veins are apparent all the time. If you have low body fat, you’ll see your larger veins more often as well, including some that bulge out over the skin. This condition is called vascularity.
For some people, the appearance of popped-out veins is simply genetic, particularly as they age and skin becomes thinner. Veins are also quite visible in the hands and feet because there is little fat in them, to begin with.
For the most part, minor and moderate vein bulges are harmless. Medically speaking, there’s no reason to become concerned unless there is accompanying pain or swelling, or the vein becomes noticeably larger. In this case, you should definitely visit a doctor for an evaluation.
And if the sight of bumpy veins bothers you, rest assured: they can be treated and shrunk or removed altogether.
Why do my veins pop out when I’m not active?
You may notice your veins pop out even when you’re at rest, particularly in the forearms where there is less fat. This may be a good sign that you’re fit (assuming you do work out) or it could be genetics. The same would apply in the legs of enthusiastic cyclists and spinners. Context is everything, as Doug McGuff, M.D., author of Body By Science explains.
Or it could be a sign of a vascular obstruction, particularly if you experience any of the following:
• Skin changes like discoloration
• Muscle weakness
• Heavy feeling in the limbs
• Reduced mobility or pain
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
These abnormal symptoms are particularly concerning if they appear in the area around an enlarged vein. This can indicate an obstruction in the vein or artery, which causes swelling and compression in nearby blood or lymph vessels. Anyone with these symptoms should get evaluated for vascular disease immediately.
Varicose veins: large, bulging, and often painful
Varicose veins are the most noticeable kind of veins. They are actually pretty common. Many women develop them during and after pregnancy. Men get them, too, from strategic exercise and middle-age weight gain. Outside the bodybuilding community, they can be cosmetic annoyances or possible signs of vascular disease.
Like with any bulging vein, pain or weakness in varicose veins may indicate an obstructed vein or artery, so be sure to have them checked out of any of the symptoms listed above are present.