Our circulatory system has the important job of pumping blood throughout our bodies. The arteries and veins that make up the circulatory system come in all shapes, sizes, and lengths. Some of these blood vessels are so small that you can hardly see them with the naked eye, while others are thicker than the diameter of your thumb. The circulatory system is actually composed of two separate parts. Our arteries take the blood containing oxygen and nutrients from the heart to all the tissues in our bodies, and it is the job of our veins to return the blood back to our heart.
Your Veins Have a Difficult Job
While our arteries have our strong heart pumping the blood through them and benefit from gravity pulling the blood downward from our heart to the rest of our body, our veins have to generate their own pumping action. They also have to pump the blood upward, against gravity. Veins are able to accomplish this difficult job because they are arranged in two layers, and each layer contributes in a specific way to the movement of blood through our veins.
Deep & Superficial Veins
Our deep veins run vertically within our muscles, so whenever we contract our leg muscles, we are squeezing the blood out of our deep veins, much like we would squeeze a tube of toothpaste. And since all of our veins have one-way valves within them, the only way the blood can move is upward toward our heart. While our deep veins function in the actual pumping of blood, our more superficial veins work as a collecting system. These superficial veins are arranged as a network of thousands of vessels that are spread throughout the area from the outside of our muscles to the surface of our skin. Once our leg muscles pump the blood out of our deep veins, our superficial veins collect more blood from our skin and superficial tissues, transporting the blood into our deep veins. Then, our leg muscles continue to pump this blood up to the heart.
Although this system works well in most cases, there are a variety of factors that can lead to malfunctions, causing different types of vein disorders. Your best defense is in knowing your risk factors, identifying symptoms early, focusing on prevention and management, and taking advantage of available treatment options.