What Causes Enlarged Veins?

Swollen, bulging, or enlarged veins may be caused by several different conditions. While they generally only present cosmetic problems, they can be a sign of a serious medical condition in some cases. Here’s a closer look at a few of the potential causes of enlarged veins.

Venous Insufficiency

Your veins have valves on the inside designed to keep blood from flowing backwards. Unfortunately, these valves may not work correctly, allowing blood to pool in the vein, which results in swelling. Not only do veins become enlarged with this condition, but the walls of the veins may also begin to weaken from the pressure of the pooling blood. In most cases, venous insufficiency affects the deeper veins of your legs.

Varicose Veins

One of the most common causes of enlarged, swollen veins is varicose veins. These veins appear distorted and swollen and may look blue or dark purple in colour. While varicose veins may show up anywhere on your body, they most commonly affect the feet and legs. Some people may even find them painful, particularly after standing or sitting for long periods. A milder form of varicose veins is spider veins, which may appear anywhere on the body.

Growing Older

In some cases, simply growing older may be enough to cause enlarged veins. As you age, your veins become more elastic and weak. This can make it tougher for your veins to push blood towards your heart. When this occurs, blood can pool in the veins, resulting in an enlargement.


Many women deal with enlarged veins when they become pregnant, and pregnancy is a big risk factor for developing varicose veins. During pregnancy, the total volume of blood within the body increases significantly, which can result in swollen, enlarged veins. Blood flow to the heart is also slowed due to the increased pressure that is on the veins.


Swollen, enlarged veins also may be the sign that you have a blood clot blocking your vein, and this generally occurs in the veins of the legs. Both deep veins and superficial veins may be affected by thrombophlebitis. Since blood clots have the potential to loosen and travel to the lungs causing a pulmonary embolism, this is a serious medical condition that needs to be treated by a physician quickly.

If you have enlarged veins and you also experience shortness of breath, chest pain, or pain in the affected area, be sure to seek immediate medical attention. These symptoms could be signs of a serious medical problem. However, in most cases, enlarged veins are not a serious problem, but you should discuss them with your doctor to see what may be causing them. Treatment options are available to eliminate your enlarged veins, so talk to your doctor about the right option for you.

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