What causes bulging veins?

Bulging veins usually result from weak or damaged valves in the veins. The heart pumps blood that supplies oxygen and nutrients to the whole body through the arteries. Veins then carry the blood from the body back to the heart. As leg muscles contract, they push blood back to the heart from the lower body against the flow of gravity. Veins have valves that act as one-way flaps to prevent blood from flowing backward as it moves up the legs. If the valves become weak, blood can leak back into the veins and collect there, making the veins bigger and bulging.

Causes of bulging veins

Bulging veins can be caused by different conditions. Although rare, tumors and infections may exert pressure on the veins in a localized area, resulting in bulging and congestion of the veins. Causes of bulging veins include:

  • Abdominal tumor or mass
  • Aging
  • Blood clot
  • Inactivity
  • Pregnancy
  • Structural abnormality of valves in the veins
  • Swelling
  • Thrombophlebitis

Serious or life-threatening causes of bulging veins

In some cases, bulging veins may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Blood clot
  • Infection
  • Tumor

Questions for diagnosing the cause of bulging veins

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your bulging veins including:

  • How long have you had bulging veins?
  • Did you experience an injury to the area where you have bulging veins?
  • Do you have any other symptoms?
  • What medications are you taking?

What are the potential complications of bulging veins?

Because bulging veins can be caused by serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Blood clots
  • Skin ulcerations near bulging veins
  • Swelling and pain


  1. Varicose veins and venous insufficiency. PubMed Health, a service of the NLM from the NIH. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002099/.
  2. Varicose veins and spider veins fact sheet. WomensHealth.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/varicose-spider-veins.html.

What are bulging veins?

Bulging of the veins is a symptom that commonly occurs in different conditions, such as thrombophlebitis, pregnancy, older age, and congenitally defective valves in the veins. Varicose veins are dilated, often distorted, and swollen veins that may be painful. Varicose veins are most frequently seen in the legs.

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What other symptoms might occur with bulging veins?

Bulging veins may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the veins may also involve other body systems.

Leg symptoms that may occur along with bulging veins

Bulging veins may accompany other symptoms affecting the legs including:

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 1, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation