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What effect does heat have on varicose veins?

I love the heat and spend a lot of time sitting in the sun, going to spas, hot tubs, etc. I also have taken hot showers and baths since I was a kid. My older sister is the exact same way and she has some varicose veins starting to show up on her lower legs. I don't have any varicose veins yet, but my brother-in-law told us to avoid so much heat from now on, because it can cause varicose veins. Is this actually true? How would something like a hot shower cause varicose veins?


Doctors Answers (3)

This is typically an inherited disorder and very rarely caused by "traumatic" episodes. Enjoy your hot baths.

Veins have a thin layer of muscle in the walls which allow them to change their diameter (and volume) as needed. With an injury, the veins may constrict to reduce blood loss in the area and to help maintain blood pressure. Heat is a potent vasodilator causing the veins to relax and enlarge as part of a cooling mechanism to deliver warm blood to the skin where the heat can be shed through evaporative cooling from sweating. Frequent dilation of the veins may facilitate a more permanent enlargement when it is combined with other factors such as pregnancy, genetics, fluid retention, etc, resulting in enlargement of the veins over time. It is not a simple cause and effect however, and many people who enjoy hot tubs and sun bathing do not go on to develop large veins. If you have a strong family history of varicose veins then I would recommend avoiding frequent high heat exposures.

I do not think the heat to which humans normally expose themselves will cause varicose veins. Genetics, the effect of gravity, obesity, and pregnancy are the dominant causes of varicose veins. Heat may cause the veins of the skin and superficial fatty tissues to temporarily enlarge to allow more blood flow, but the effect is due to relaxation of the muscle in the wall of the veins.

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