Does Your Weight Cause Varicose Veins?

July 8, 2014

With massive weight loss, you lose fat everywhere. Most people lose fat in their legs. This loss of leg fat can lead to the appearance of prominent leg veins. These prominent leg veins can also become very painful. These painful, ropey leg veins are called varicose veins.

There are many causes of varicose veins. The majority of varicose veins are thought to be hereditary. This means you inherit the genes for varicose veins from your parents. In addition, obesity contributes to the development of varicose veins. Also, being female and standing for prolonged periods of time increase your chances of developing varicose veins. Other causes of varicose veins include pregnancy and menopause.

Normally blood flows from your feet back to your heart.   To achieve this, there are many tiny valves within the walls of your leg veins. Thus, blood on its way back to the heart is pumped from one valve chamber to the next. These valves designed to only flow one way. Obesity puts extra stress on these vein valves. Excess fat compresses and tries to collapse the vein. The vein valves start to malfunction, blood starts to pool, veins dilate and blood flows backward toward the feet.

It is a myth that varicose veins are just a cosmetic problem.   Rather, varicose veins are a real medical problem. Varicose veins can be a sign of underlying circulatory problems. If you have varicose veins, you should have these veins examined.  It is true that most varicose veins do not cause any complications; however, some varicose veins can cause significant complications. Varicose veins complications can include pain, tenderness, leg heaviness and inability to walk or stand for long hours. If the varicose veins are allowed to continue, skin loss can occur with resulting skin ulcers, and rarely, skin cancer. In addition, even minor trauma can cause severe bleeding. Varicose veins can also cause blood clots, which can cause significant problems if the clot travels into the deep vein system.

If you experience leg pain especially at night or after exercise, leg swelling, legs skin changes or chronic non-healing leg wounds, you should be evaluated by a physician. You could have underlying leg vein problems.

The most common test used to examine the venous circulation is a duplex venogram. This test is performed in the office and is similar to an ultrasound. The duplex venogram examines the diameter and quality of the veins.

Prevention of varicose veins includes leg elevation and compression stockings.   If the underlying veins are dilated, you may benefit from a small surgical procedure. The procedure is called endovenous laser ablation. The procedure is done under sedation and is outpatient..

The procedure entails inserting a very small laser fiber into the affected vein.   The laser is turned on and the vein is cauterized from the inside.   The vein then collapses. The procedure takes about an hour. Most patients are able to return to work the following day. Most medical plans cover this procedure.

So, if you have lost weight and you have varicose veins, you should have these veins examined by a physician and with a duplex venogram. In addition, if you have leg pain or leg swelling, you should also have your veins examined with a duplex venogram. If there are significant findings on venogram, you may need small surgical procedure called endovenous laser ablation. Endovenous laser ablation is often covered by your medical insurance.

timothy katzen


Dr. J. Timothy Katzen is certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and is the President of the American Society of Bariatric Plastic Surgeons. Dr. Katzen specializes in reconstructive plastic surgery after massive weight loss. He has written many articles and given lectures around the world about how to perform plastic surgery on patients who have undergone massive weight loss. Dr. Katzen has plastic surgery offices in two different states and two different countries. Specifically, he has offices in Beverly Hills (California), Las Vegas (Nevada), and Dubai (United Arab Emirates). Read more articles from Dr. Katzen!