How Your Veins Change As You Age (And If You Should Be Concerned)

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Aging brings about a plethora of changes to the body – inside and outside. As your body begins to slow, functional changes can increase your risk for health conditions, illness and injury. Physical changes can change the way your body looks and feels.

One common physical change among aging populations is the increase of visible, bulging veins, specifically in the legs.

“Our veins are designed with a valve which works to control proper blood flow in the extremities back to the heart,” says Paul Corcoran, M.D., a vascular surgeon for Henry Ford Health. “As you get older, these valves can wear out and cause too much blood to pool in the legs.”

The result? Large veins that appear on the surface of the skin – and in some cases, spider or varicose veins. Some factors that can contribute to bulging veins as you age include:

  • Your gender. Women are more likely to experience bulging veins than men because of childbirth and hormone fluctuation during menstruation.
  • Your weight. People who are overweight or have obesity are more prone to swelling, which can lead to vein disfunction.
  • Your job. If you work or have worked in a job that is more sedentary or requires being on your feet for long periods of time, this can increase visible veins in the legs.
  • Your lifestyle choices. “In most advanced cases that we see, patients aren’t staying active,” says Dr. Corcoran. By getting plenty of exercise and making healthy food choices, you can help maintain your health and avoid vascular problems in the future.

For some, these veins can be very painful and impact your mobility or quality of life. In other cases, patients will have no symptoms at all. Regardless, many people see these veins begin to develop and immediately start to question the possible impact this could have on their health. Here, Dr. Corcoran shares his insight on how to manage these veins.

Seeking Care From A Vascular Surgeon

“Visible veins are treated based on your threshold,” says Dr. Corcoran. “If you are able to manage symptoms through conservative methods like exercise and compression garments, that works for some patients. If you find physical symptoms bothersome and impeding on your quality of life, a vascular surgeon can work with you to determine how to treat.”

Common symptoms that can be relieved through treatment include:

  • Skin changes
  • Wounds that have developed as the result of skin and vein changes
  • Bulging veins that are causing pain or limit mobility
  • Leg heaviness
  • A dry, itchy rash on the legs
  • Throbbing legs
  • Swelling in the legs

If you are experiencing swelling as well as heavy, achy legs, talk with your primary care physician before making an appointment with a vascular surgeon. Swelling in the legs can be the result of other health factors such as your heart health history, diet, sleep apnea, etc. Your doctor will want to conduct a thorough exam to rule out these symptoms in relation to anything else before referring you to a vascular physician. Additionally, if you ever notice a sudden change in your symptoms or swelling - specifically if it is concentrated on one side - seek care immediately.

If you have taken notice of veins in your legs as you have gotten older, don’t fret. If you aren’t experiencing symptoms, remember that these visible veins are a normal part of aging. If you have symptoms, you and your doctor can monitor symptoms to make sure they don’t get worse. If they do progress, there are many treatment options available to help.


To schedule an appointment with a vascular physician, visit henryford.com or call 844-725-6424 if you are in Detroit or Southeast Michigan or 517-205-1305 if you’re in Jackson or South Central Michigan.

Dr. Paul Corcoran is the medical director of the Henry Ford Vein Center. He sees patients at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital, Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and Henry Ford Medical Center – Fairlane.

Categories: FeelWell