When it comes to protruding veins in CrossFitters and body builders, it can be hard to tell immediately whether they are the result of vascularity or varicose veins. Some assume men just don’t get varicose veins. They suppose it’s a woman’s problem caused by wearing high heels, pregnancy, or crossing the legs. But that’s not correct!
What is vascularity?
Vascularity refers to highly visible and prominent veins that appear to ‘pop out’ from the skin. The skin can look thinner, and as though it is wrapped tightly around the veins. Vascularity is the result of low levels of fat and high muscle pressure. It is common among bodybuilders and men who work out at high levels. Within the bodybuilding community, vascularity is seen as a positive sign that a bodybuilder is in contest condition. To display vascularity an individual usually needs to have less than 10% body fat.
What are varicose veins?
Varicose veins are large, bulging blue or purple veins most often occurring on the legs and feet. These occur when faulty one-way valves in the vein wall, allowing blood to move in the wrong direction. The excess blood in the vein causes the swelling and enlargement. Varicose veins can cause pain and discomfort to those who are suffering from them and can have other health complications.
Do men get varicose veins?
Yes, men do get varicose veins. They are very common among both men and women – in fact 30% of people will get varicose veins at some point in their lifetime. However, women may notice problem veins earlier in life than men, as pregnancy can put significant pressure on the veins in the pelvis and legs.
How to tell if you have varicose veins or vascularity?
Bulging veins are unlikely to be the result of vascularity unless you are extremely fit and active and have a low body fat percentage. Yet, extremely fit people can get varicose veins too, and may experience negative symptoms including:
- Burning, throbbing or itchy veins
- Pain or cramps around the protruding veins
- A heavy sensation in the legs
- Large prominent leg veins that do not reduce after working out
If you are a very active person and vascularity is normal for you, you should still be vigilant and act if you notice these warning signs of varicose veins in the legs.
Are they serious?
Varicose veins also known as venous disease can be a progressive condition and those left untreated could experience complications such as venous eczema (venous dermatitis), swelling in the leg (oedema), discolouration of the skin (hyperpigmentation), thickening of the skin of the lower leg or ankle (lipodermatosclerosis), and localised or extensive break downs of the skin barrier, particularly around the ankle region (venous ulceration.) If left untreated, these symptoms can become worse with advancing age.
What treatments are available for varicose veins?
Treatment is highly recommended if you are suffering from varicose veins – the diseased veins will not right themselves without medical intervention. Common varicose vein treatments include:
Ablation – Endovenous laser ablation is a cutting-edge procedure that involves inserting laser fibre into the vein via a tiny incision. This creates a reaction and causes the vein wall to collapse. Another type of ablation that can be used is radiofrequency ablation which uses thermal heat to damage the vein and close it off.
- Vascularity refers to protruding veins, often on the upper body, favoured by many CrossFitters and bodybuilders. It’s generally the result of low body fat percentage and muscle mass.
- Both men and women are at risk of getting varicose veins. These often occur in the lower body (legs, ankles, etc) and should be treated to prevent worsening symptoms with advancing age.
- Treatments employed by our phlebologist include endovenous laser ablation (EVLA), ultrasound guided sclerotherapy, VenaSeal (medical adhesive), and radiofrequency ablation.