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How do I know if my veins are bigger just from exercising or if they are varicose?

I am a weightlifter and as I have increased my muscles, I have noticed that my veins are more visible, especially on my legs. How do I know if my veins are bigger just from exercising or if they are varicose?

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Doctors Answers (3)

Weight lifters frequently have more prominent veins which can be evaluated by ultrasound to determine if there is venous reflux, which would indicate a poorly functioning vein. Varicose veins must be at least 3mm in diameter and typically have a blue raised ropey appearance. You may also have prominent reticular veins which are less than 3mm in diameter. Varicose veins can be formed from incorrect weight lifting and are not just due to reduced fat below the skin. Doing long sets of heavy weights is associated with both voluntary and involuntary tightening of the abdominal muscles (valsalva) with an increase in venous pressure and reduced venous flow (below the abdomen) in the legs which develop with each repetitive lift. The elevated venous pressure and time can eventually produce a dilation of the veins and failure of the venous valves that prevent reflux. Venous pressure does not drop back to normal until immediately AFTER the repetitive lifts have stopped. My suggestion for weight lifting and avoiding formation of varicose veins is to allow a brief (at least 1 second) FULL muscle rest/relaxation after every few reps/lifts. This will not significantly increase the time it takes to do your lifting sets, but it is important to know that venous pressure does not drop unless the muscle is FULLY relaxed even for a brief time. Reduced tension in the muscle while holding the weight is NOT FULLY relaxed and venous pressure will not drop UNTIL the weight is released, so also consider using a weight stand.

Usually it is from resistance training, but the only way to know for sure is an ultrasound exam.

This is quite normal when the muscles are bulked up and with weight lifting. Take a look at some of the old Greek statues of the warriors...big calf muscles and bulging veins.

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