Understanding Veins

In order to move blood up the legs toward the heart, the veins and leg muscles work together against gravity. Along the inside walls of veins are flaps called valves that work like one-way doors. When the leg muscles contract, the valve opens and blood is pushed up deep veins. When the muscle relaxes, the valve closes and prevents blood from traveling back down the vein. Healthy veins have strong valves that keep blood moving in the correct direction.

Three types of veins carry blood from your legs to your heart

  • Superficial veins are located just beneath the skin and move blood from the skin and surface tissues. They drain into the deep veins.
  • Deep veins are located in the muscles of the legs and carry 80-90% of blood back to the heart via the inferior vena cava.
  • Perforating veins connect superficial veins and deep veins.

What are damaged veins?

Damaged veins have weak walls or valves that are not strong enough to fully close the valves. Therefore, when the leg muscles relax, blood will leak back though the valve via gravity. This can also affect the health of other valves. The blood will travel to the next healthy valve, and the increase in blood will cause an increase in pressure. The extra pressure will eventually weaken the valve and the healthy valves below it.

Instead of the blood moving up the leg toward the heart, blood will began to pool in the vein. Consequently, varicose veins may form, swelling may occur in the leg, and blood clots may develop in veins where the blood is moving inefficiently.

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