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Tiny Broken Blood Vessels on the Legs From Running

author image Wendy Swope
Wendy Swope has been writing professionally since 2000. Her articles have appeared in newspapers as well as trade publications. Swope wrote "Wild Idaho" for Falcon Press and coauthored a chapter in the textbook "ACCCN's Critical Care Nursing." She is a certified acute-care nurse practitioner.
Tiny Broken Blood Vessels on the Legs From Running
Running can cause damage to the small veins in the legs. Photo Credit: Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

The small veins in the legs can be damaged by disease, advanced age or trauma. The location of the injured veins is important in determining the cause. Identifying what produced the injury is the first step in prevention and treatment; failing to do so can potentially lead to serious and longterm complications.

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Running creates stress on blood vessels.
Running creates stress on blood vessels. Photo Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

The tiny blood vessels in the legs are called veins or venules. These bring blood back from the legs to the heart and lungs. Damage or weakness in these veins can cause varicose veins or burst blood vessels. A family history of varicose or spider veins means you might have weak blood vessels that are easily damaged. In addition, a history of high blood pressure also can cause weak blood vessels. Women also are more prone to these broken vessels and pregnancy can make these conditions worse. In addition, as we age the walls of our blood vessels get weaker and more fragile, thus are more prone to injury.

Location of Broken Blood Vessels

Runners create more blood flow to the legs.
Runners create more blood flow to the legs. Photo Credit: James Phelps/Hemera/Getty Images

The most common site for small broken blood vessels are where the stressors are greatest while running. This includes on the inside of the ankles and the back of the knees. Broken blood vessels also might be noticed along the thighs and calves, or anywhere that blood vessels are closest to the skin. If you have spider veins, this is a likely site for broken blood vessels.

Running Injuries

The stress that running puts on the legs also can cause the small blood vessels to break. If you are starting a running program, you are creating increased blood flow to the legs and more stress to the blood vessels. Starting slowly will help prevent excessive damage to these veins. Experienced runners can damage blood vessels by increasing speed or distance beyond their fitness level. Improvement in speed and distance must be gradual in order to allow the blood vessels to adapt to the increased stress.

Complication of Broken Blood Vessels

Broken blood vessels are an indication of injury to the vascular system. By evaluating your health history and recent running habits, you will be able to identify the cause of the injury. Although nothing can be done about a family history of varicose or spider veins, you can treat existing high blood pressure or decrease your speed or distances on your runs. Tiny broken blood vessels are not medical emergencies, but they should be watched, and if they continue to occur after you've adjusted your running, seek medical advice about other possible causes.

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