Medical Review By: Ronald Bush, MD
Everyone wants attractive, young-looking hands, but bulging hand veins can get in the way.
“While anyone can develop bulging veins in their hands, women are more likely to seek treatment because they worry that the veins make their hands appear masculine,” said Ronald Bush, MD, FACS, a board-certified vascular surgeon at The Vein Center at Water’s Edge Dermatology.
Fortunately, you don’t have to tolerate prominent hand veins if they make you self-conscious. Minimally invasive treatments can give you the smooth hands you’ve always wanted.
Causes of bulging hand veins
What causes veins to be more visible in hands? Conspicuous blue veins in the hands may result from:
Age. “The veins in everyone’s hands will eventually bulge due to natural changes that occur to the veins and skin as we get older,” said Dr. Bush. The walls of the veins weaken with age. As a result, blood tends to pool and dilate the veins, particularly when your hands are hanging at your sides. Over time, the veins become permanently dilated. The skin also weakens with age, thinning and becoming less elastic, making bulging hand veins look more pronounced.
Exercise. Dr. Bush points to exercise as one of the most common causes of bulging hand veins. When you work out, the veins in your hands may bulge because of increased blood flow. This is often temporary, but may become permanent if you work out regularly, especially if you lift weights.
Low body fat. If you’re very thin, the lack of tissue volume in your hands can make the veins appear more pronounced.
Hot weather. Veins dilate in hot weather to allow more heat to be released to the environment. This can make the veins in your hands, which are close to the surface, look more pronounced, according to Dr. Bush.
Certain medical conditions. If only one hand vein is swollen, you may have phlebitis, inflammation of a vein that may occur as a result of an injury or infection. One or more swollen hand veins may be a sign of a blood clot in the arm, either in a superficial vein (this is called superficial thrombophlebitis) or a deep vein (this is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT). Superficial thrombophlebitis usually isn’t dangerous, but DVT is a serious condition that requires prompt medical care. Raise your arms above your head, then lower them and look at the bulging veins in your hands. “If the blood didn’t empty, that’s a sign you may have a clot,” said Dr. Bush.
Treating bulging hand veins
Two treatments are available for enlarged veins in the hands: sclerotherapy and ambulatory microphlebectomy, also called microphlebectomy. “Both procedures can be performed in just a matter of minutes and are generally well tolerated,” Dr. Bush said. “And because the needles and incisions are so tiny, scarring is rarely an issue.”
Sclerotherapy is the less invasive option. The doctor injects the affected veins with a solution that irritates the inner lining of the vessels and causes the vessels to collapse. The veins are then gradually absorbed by your tissues in a few weeks.
An ambulatory microphlebectomy requires very small incisions near the affected veins. The surgeon first numbs the area with a local anesthetic. After making the incisions, he or she inserts a surgical hook into the veins to remove them. You won’t need any stitches because the incisions are so tiny.
The treatment you receive may come down to what type of doctor you see, explained Dr. Bush. Dermatologists usually only perform sclerotherapy, while vascular surgeons can perform both procedures.
Of course, you’ll want to weigh the pros and cons of each treatment. Sclerotherapy is less expensive than phlebectomy, though you may require multiple treatments to fully dissolve the veins. Ambulatory phlebectomy provides better immediate results.
Whichever treatment you choose, rest assured that neither one harms your circulation. “Your blood simply re-routes through other veins,” Dr. Bush said. In other words, your circulatory system won’t miss the bulging hand veins any more than you will.
Contact The Vein Center at Water’s Edge Dermatology to learn more about hand vein treatments or to make an appointment.
Article Written By: Jessica Brown, a health and science writer/editor based in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared in Prevention, Johnson & Johnson, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and many more.