Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the appearance of bulging veins on your hands. Or maybe you’re worried it’s a sign of a medical problem.

For most people, bulging hand veins are normal and a cosmetic issue, and the veins in their arms and hands are functioning normally. For very few people, bulging veins are a symptom of bigger problem. Learn what could be causing bulging hand veins and your treatment options.

There are a number of reasons why you might have bulging veins in your hands. One or more of these causes could be contributing to your bulging hand veins:

  • Low body fat. If you don’t have much fat on your hands, your veins can be more prominent.
  • Age. As you get older, your skin gets thinner and loses elasticity, making your veins more visible. Also, as you age, your valves in your veins weaken. This can cause blood to pool in your veins for a longer period of time. This enlarges the vein.
  • Exercise. When you exercise, your blood pressure rises and your veins are pushed closer to your skin. Once your blood pressure drops to normal, your hand veins become less prominent. Exercising on a regular basis, however, can make bulging hand veins permanent — especially if you do a lot of strength training exercises. Repeatedly lifting weights in the gym or for work often results in an increase of blood flow and a hardening of the muscles. This can cause prominent veins.
  • Genetics. If you have immediate family members with bulging veins, there’s a chance you’ll have them, too.
  • Hot weather. High temperatures can make it more difficult for your vein valves to work correctly. This can enlarge your veins.
  • Varicose veins. More likely to be found in the leg than the hand, varicose veins appear when your vein valves weaken. This makes them less efficient in preventing blood from flowing backward. Varicose veins can become twisty, enlarged, and painful.
  • Phlebitis. If a hand infection, trauma, or autoimmune disease causes a vein to become inflamed, the vein could swell.
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis. Superficial thrombophlebitis is an inflammation of a superficial vein (phlebitis) caused by a blood clot (thrombus). It can occur due to an injury of a vein, like after having an IV catheter inserted.
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A bulging hand vein could be the result of a blood clot deep in the veins of the arm.

Use this interactive 3-D diagram to explore the hand.

The treatment for bulging hand veins depends on the cause. Once your doctor gives you the correct diagnosis, treatment can be determined and started.

In most cases, treatment of bulging hand veins has to do with cosmetics rather than health. The cosmetic treatments are basically the same as the treatment for varicose veins:

  • Sclerotherapy is a process of injecting a chemical solution into targeted veins, causing them to scar and close.
  • Endovenous ablation therapy is often called laser therapy. It’s ideal for smaller veins. In laser therapy, your doctor uses amplified light or radio waves to close veins.
  • Ambulatory phlebectomy is the removal of the targeted veins via small incisions. It involves local anesthesia.
  • Vein stripping and ligation close the vein that supplies blood to the targeted vein. While you’re under general anesthesia, your doctor will make an incision, tie off the vein, and remove it.

In these procedures, after your doctor closes the targeted vein, the blood that used to run in the vein is automatically shifted. The closed vein eventually fades away.

In the unlikely event your bulging veins are a sign of a more serious condition, your doctor will offer a specific medical response.

If you receive a diagnosis of phlebitis, your doctor will most likely prescribe anti-inflammatory treatment, antibiotic therapy along with warm compresses and elevation of your arm, or both.

If you receive a diagnosis of thrombophlebitis, your doctor might not recommend prescription treatment. Clots in veins near the surface of the skin are often naturally absorbed in less than two weeks. If there’s swelling, your doctor might suggest an over-the-counter medication or prescribe medicine to relieve it. Otherwise, the treatment is similar to that for phlebitis.

If you have DVT, your doctor will likely prescribe you an anticoagulant blood thinner. If the blood thinners aren’t working or you have a severe DVT, your doctor might have you receive thrombolytic therapy. This is also called “clot buster” therapy.

Bulging hand veins don’t indicate a serious medical indication for the majority of people.

If you’re concerned that your prominent hand veins could be a symptom of something serious — or you just don’t like the way they look — make an appointment with your doctor. If there’s a serious problem, they can recommend treatment. If you want them removed for cosmetic purposes, your doctor will have a suggestion on the best procedure for you.