The Hidden Dangers of Being Overweight with Varicose Veins


It is widely known that being overweight can cause a multitude of health problems, including diabetes, arthritis and heart disease, among others. What is not as commonly known is the dangers and difficulties that may be hiding in the form of varicose veins. Not only are they more likely to occur in those that are overweight, but they are also more difficult to diagnose and treat.

On average, about 30% of people will develop varicose veins at some point in their life, and that number is even higher for those that are overweight. But for many of those overweight people, their varicose veins go undiagnosed. One reason for this is that the bulging veins are often simply harder to see when there is more fat under the skin. Another symptom of varicose veins is discomfort and heaviness of the legs. Again, these warning signs may go misdiagnosed because they become attributed to the patient’s weight problem itself. One of the hidden dangers here is that when varicose veins are left untreated, they can cause skin damage on the lower leg, and those who are overweight are already at a greater risk of leg ulceration.

One of the main reasons it is difficult for overweight patients to locate swollen veins is that while on a standard-sized leg, the veins usually reside 1-2 cm under the skin, in a larger leg they can be 4-5 cm below the surface. An experienced doctor, however, will be able to use a duplex ultrasound scan to diagnose varicose veins. This non-invasive procedure can “see” below the skin and assess the condition of the veins at any depth. For this reason, it is important to get checked out by an experience professional if there is any indication that you might be suffering from varicose veins.

Lastly, the added problems can carry over into the treatment of varicose veins. The normally minimally invasive laser treatment can be much more difficult for the surgeon and can cause much more discomfort in the patient. Additionally, if the treatment option involves general anesthesia, an overweight patient is opening themselves up to other risks. And if they choose an alternative, non-surgical solution like compression stockings, this too carries additional danger. Stockings can often slip down the leg, and on an over-sized thigh, they are much more likely to fall and bunch around the knee, which in turn can make varicose veins even worse.

Like with most health conditions, one of the keys to successful care is early diagnosis and treatment. If you think you may suffer from varicose veins, do not wait or dismiss the potential dangers. Consult with a vein specialist as soon as possible.

At the San Diego Vein Institute, each stage of our diagnosis and treatment is preformed by doctors specializing in vein care. For an appointment, please contact us at 760-944-9263 or visit us at