Published December 29, 2019
Dr. Sylvester Ikhisemojie
Visible veins in the arms and forearms are not appealing to the eye cosmetically speaking and so many readers have often inundated this column with various questions about their origin and how to treat them . Here is an attempt to explain why they happen and what can be done to manage them . For the most part, it is important for people to note that when these veins become prominent and very obvious in the upper parts of the body as indicated , it is not always an indication that there is a health problem to worry about . However , their appearance would occasionally mean that there is a something to worry about and sometimes, the issue causing such veins to bulge could indeed be serious . At that time , the behaviour of the veins and their character will help to determine if a doctor should be consulted.
The veins in the arms and forearms could become more prominent when you are exercising . During such periods, there is an increase in the flow of blood to the extremities and the muscles so as to enable an improved flow of oxygen to the parts being exercised . The increased effort therefore demands more commitments from the body’ s ability to break down fat and glycogen stores in order to generate energy . The blood pressure therefore rises and , in doing so pushes the veins closer to the skin . When the exercise stops the blood pressure returns to normal and the veins become less obvious . All of these events taking place simultaneously can cause the blood flow to increase so that more oxygen is supplied in support of the effort and carbon -dioxide together with lactic acid is effectively removed . When this cycle of exercise is done repeatedly , the veins could take on a more permanent, prominent attitude .
When standing still , or sitting in one position for several hours , the veins of the affected limbs can similarly distend with slower flowing blood . However , this is a feature characteristically seen in the lower limbs but also in the exercising person who stays upside down as part of their calisthenics and therefore support their body weight on their arms. The major reason why the flow of blood in the limbs that are not exercising becomes slow or even static is because of the presence of overburdened valves in such limbs that are unable to ensure that the blood flows in one direction only . Such a condition is described as incompetence of the relevant valves . As stated earlier , this malady is often seen far more frequently in the legs where they can become twisted , enlarged and painful and become known as varicose veins .
Prominent veins can also be seen in the upper limbs because of a certain level of fitness in which the amount of fat in the skin is so little that the veins become prominent . This is also the case with people who have a high muscle mass relative to the amount of body fat they have . Health workers often appreciate such people very much when they take ill and need to have an intravenous line set up for various reasons and the veins are so easy to get . So low body fat leading to more prominent veins can actually be an indicator of good health . It reflects the level of physical fitness in that individual . This is , however , very different when an individual suffers an infection in the hand , an injury or some kind of autoimmune disease and the veins become swollen . That is why it was said above that sometimes, such prominent veins would be seen in response to a disease condition . At other times , the person’s genes may be the determining factor for the presence of such a condition . When and if a close relative has got such prominent veins , then other family members are likely to have them too.
When the weather is hot , the valves within the veins may not work appropriately . This will prevent the efficient flow of blood and cause the veins to enlarge and become more visible . This is a reversible condition , however , and would return to normality when the weather conditions become less hostile . This cause of prominent veins is very different from the type seen in elderly persons. As one gets older, the skin becomes thinner and loses its elasticity over time . The veins therefore become more prominent as they lose their supporting skin structure . Another reason for such prominence is that the valves within the veins lose their strength . As they progressively weaken, they cause the blood to pool inside those veins for a longer period of time and they respond by expanding.
Another condition that can promote the development of this condition is the inflammation of a superficial vein caused by the presence of a blood clot . This is often seen when a vein is injured as can be encountered when an intravenous cannula is inserted into a vein for intravenous fluid and drug administration . This condition is usually described as a superficial thrombophlebitis in contradistinction to deep vein thrombosis which results from a blood clot deep within the veins of the arm. This is likely to cause the veins in the hand of the affected arm to become distended.
In children , there is usually a thick layer of fat just under the skin which makes it very difficult to see any veins at all . But some adults are similarly made with their fat tissue just under the skin such that their veins are not easy to see . However , some people ’s veins are easier to see irrespective of their age due mainly to the pigmentation of their skin . As a result , skin which is pale or fair is more likely to demonstrate a person’ s veins than somebody who is dark . Such improved visibility is what also happens amongst people who use bleaching creams and, who because of such usage get their skin to become thinner than usual leading to more visibility of their arm and forearm veins and their increased prominence.
It needs to be emphasized that the presence of prominent veins in the upper limbs is often not a sign of a disease condition . If they progressively become larger, however , it is wise at that point to see a doctor who will direct you to the specific kind of expert to see for the treatment of the problem . While vascular surgeons are the specific people to deal with such problems , they are extremely rare to find in our country and the plastic surgeons could also help. A healthy situation in which such veins can appear to be constantly increasing is size can be seen in muscle builders , weight lifters and those who pump iron . Their muscles reach a level of hardness during their exercise regimens that the veins are permanently pushed to positions that lie just beneath the skin making them really visible .