– Normal Veins –

We all have a circulatory system which gets blood from the heart to our organs and tissues, along thick-walled arteries. Blood reaches our feet relatively easily if our arteries are healthy. Once the blood has delivered its oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, it returns back up the legs to the heart along thin-walled veins.

Whilst the heart acts as a pump to push blood through our arteries, this isn’t the case for blood moving along our veins. We have both deep veins, and superficial veins, which lie close to the surface of the skin. In the legs, it is the action of our calf muscles, which act as a “muscle pump” on the deep veins which squeezes the blood uphill against gravity back towards the heart.

 

However so that blood doesn’t flow back downhill again towards the feet when the muscles relax, the veins contain one-way valves which hold the blood in position. These contain small flaps which bulge backwards. In healthy veins this means that the blood only moves upwards in the legs.

In some circumstances, these valves become damaged. Blood will then flow back down the leg veins under the influence of gravity. The superficial veins may then swell because of the chronic back pressure as their walls are thin. You see these as thread, spider or varicose veins.

 

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