Does Alcohol Negatively Affect the Veins?

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Alcohol doesn’t cause varicose veins, but it can damage your overall circulatory system — which includes your veins.

Many factors contribute to the development of varicose veins. Some, like poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle, we can change. Others, like heredity, we cannot. Of all the many risk factors associated with varicose veins, alcohol may not rank very high. Yet heavy alcohol consumption has a damaging effect on our circulatory and cardiovascular systems as a whole — including our veins. 

Veins are essential in moving blood to and from the heart and lower limbs. Inside our leg veins are tiny flaps, or valves, whose sole function is to push blood back to the heart. For the reasons mentioned above, the valves weaken and blood accumulates in the vein. Strained by this pooled blood, the vein walls stretch out and emerge on the legs and feet in thick tangles of blue and purple varicose veins.

Many people wonder whether alcohol may directly cause varicose veins, but the impact is typically minor. Your family history, smoking, and lack of exercise have more to do with whether you get varicose veins or not. Nevertheless, excessive drinking harms the veins and that can worsen the pain, swelling, throbbing, and other symptoms of varicose veins if you already suffer from the condition. Let’s look at how drinking affects your veins.

Alcohol and Vein Health

Moderate alcohol consumption, like one glass of wine or a single cocktail daily, isn’t going to do much harm to your veins. In fact, that one sip of alcohol actually relaxes the veins, allowing blood to flow more freely. When you have a second drink, however, your heart beats faster, speeding up blood flow and exerting further pressure on vein valves as they struggle against the gravity of having to pump more blood upward. If you currently have varicose veins, that’s why you may notice an increase in discomfort when you have more than one alcoholic beverage.

What’s more, when the liver is deluged with an excessive influx of alcohol, it cannot process all the toxins. The blood becomes thicker, putting yet another strain on the veins. That is why excessive, constant alcohol consumption is especially not good for the circulatory system.

Alcohol also creates the conditions that may lead to spider veins, which are the tinier, less-protruding versions of varicose veins. Alcohol breaks down the collagen in the vein walls, which may result in thin webs of veins rising to the surface of the skin on the legs and face.

Overall, an occasional drink won’t cause varicose veins. Smoking, being overweight, and practicing a generally unhealthy lifestyle — which may include heavy drinking — does negatively impact vein health to a greater degree. So, imbibe moderately, but don’t overdo it if you want to protect your veins from the damaging effects of alcohol.

Keeping Your Veins Healthy


At the Vein & Vascular Institute, we specialize in vein health. If you have varicose veins or believe you are at risk of the condition, we can help you come up with a plan that’s right for your health. That may include diet, exercise, or other lifestyle changes. But if you already have varicose veins, the best bet for treatment is one of several effective surgical procedures. Contact us today for an appointment.

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