Healthy veins: Insight into a complex system

The function of the veins is to return deoxygenated blood to the heart. The veins are part of a complex system which, in our legs, runs superficially on the one hand and deep in the muscles on the other. In general, the blood flows from the superficial to the deep and from the smaller to the larger veins. That means the direction of the blood is from the bottom to the top and from outside to inside before it leaves the leg towards the heart.

Muscles as the driving force

As the transport of the blood back to the heart takes place against gravity some physical strength is necessary. The veins themselves are not able to do that. Therefore so-called muscles pumps in foot, calf and thigh take on the job. But this can only happen when the venous valves work and open and close like valves, thus preventing reverse blood flow.

From venous valve to venous valve

In an intact leg the blood is carried toward the heart step by step. This is caused by pressure and requires that the venous valves which are consecutively positioned close exactly and work together. If there is a build-up of pressure, caused e.g. by the change of position from lying to standing up, the blood, in the worst case, flows back only to the next venous valve.

Weaknesses in the system

With rising temperatures an enlargement of the veins is normal. An intact venous system compensates this phenomenon so that no blood becomes congested nor do orthostatic problems arise. But problems will occur when dilation is caused by the weakness of the connective tissue or the vascular wall of the veins. The venous valves then do not close properly, the blood “flows” in the wrong direction and finally collects in visible varicose veins.

Learn more:
Varicose veins: A widespread illness and its cause


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