Written By: Emma Squillace
This may be hard to believe, but scientists say if you laid out all the blood vessels from an average adult, end to end, they would stretch almost 100,000 miles! Some of these blood vessels are so small, that they are less than 1/3 as thick as a single strand of hair. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the aorta which is the largest blood vessel in our bodies. In between these two extremes, we’ve got a complex system of veins that range from thin to thick, and travels all over our bodies. Veins are both critical to our health, and sometimes the cause of frustration. At West Medical we help many people who come to us with questions or problems with their veins. Today we’ll cover 5 facts about veins that many of our patients say they didn’t know:
Why your veins look blue
You may have heard that your veins look blue because they’re carrying de-oxygenated blood back to your heart. It’s true that the blood going back to your heart has lost the oxygen it was carrying, however this change does not make the blood blue. Instead, when your capillaries take the oxygen from your blood, that blood becomes a darker red. So why do you see blue veins? That blue or purple appearance is related to the way the light hits your skin, and the way we perceive colors. When you see a vein that looks blue, it’s deeper under your skin than a vein that looks red. Despite appearances, our blood is never the blue or purple color it may appear to be.
Why you can see some peoples’ veins through their skin
When we’re young, our veins are generally not very visible through our skin. As we get older, this can change. Age plays a role in whether or not you’ll have notable visible veins. Another factor is body weight. People who are thinner tend to have more visible veins, although obesity is a risk factor for varicose veins. You can also look to genetics, which play a role in our vein systems and how visible these veins will be as we age. Having visible veins is a source of frustration and lowered confidence for some people. If their visible veins are spider or varicose veins, they are often treatable.
The 3 different types of veins in your legs
The legs do not just have one type of vein. Instead, they have 3 different types. Nearest the center of the leg we have “deep veins,” and these veins are the foundation of how blood from our legs gets pumped back to our hearts. Then we have “perforating veins,” which connect our deep veins to the veins nearest our skin. Those veins nearest our skin are called “superficial veins”. These superficial veins are generally the ones that cause problems like varicose veins and spider veins.
The link between DVT and varicose veins
DVT stands for Deep Vein Thrombosis, and it is a very dangerous condition where a blood clot breaks off and travels up to your lungs. An estimated 60,000 – 100,000 people in the US die from DVT each year. While clots that form in the superficial veins are generally not as dangerous as those that form in the deep veins, there is still reason for caution. A blood clot in a superficial vein can cause inflammation, red lumps, and swelling of your whole leg. There is also some data to support a link between varicose veins and DVT, which is especially risky when flying.
How blood gets back to your heart if a vein gets closed off
Having a vein closed off sounds like it could cause problems. After all, if a road is shut down all of a sudden, that can lead to major traffic headaches. Veins are different though. You have so many veins that if several are closed off to blood flow – during varicose vein treatment for example – your body is quite efficient at moving the blood along a different route, back to your heart. In many cases, treating varicose veins actually improves circulation since those veins were interfering with normal blood flow patterns.
Many patients come to see us because they have questions about their veins, or are looking for treatment options. Our vein specialists are happy to meet with you and examine any problems veins you have. We can talk to you about how to keep your circulatory system healthy, and what options you have if you want treatment for issues like spider or varicose veins. If you’d like to learn more about veins and vein treatments, please call our offices at (855) 690-0565.