Arteries and veins are the vessels that transport blood to and from various parts of the body. Arteries are muscular, thick vessels that carry blood away from the heart and veins are the thinner vessels that return blood to the heart. Blood returning to the heart from the legs has to flow against gravity. Between heartbeats, the veins have to support the weight of the blood. To help with this, the veins have valves that open and close to keep blood flow moving in one direction and decrease venous pressure. If the valves fail, due to disease or damage, blood is pulled by gravity down the leg in reverse direction and can pool. The weight of the blood puts excessive pressure on the veins, causing them to elongate and dilate. As they enlarge, they become visible on the legs as varicose veins, or spider veins. This is known as chronic venous insufficiency or vein disease.
Millions of people have some form of vein disease. Many factors contribute to chronic vein disease and the development of varicose veins including:
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