Oxygenated blood leaves the heart by arteries, passes through capillaries and returns to the heart via veins, operating against gravity. The muscles in the calf of the leg help push blood back to the heart, while valves within the vein keep the blood from flowing back down toward the feet.
Varicose veins occur in veins when valves no longer function properly and the wall of the vessel becomes weak. Superficial veins then become large with a knotted appearance and may form abnormal branches. Valves within the "deep venous system" may also malfunction. Most varicose veins, reticular veins (small blue veins seen through the skin), and spider veins arise from the superficial system.
The Vanderbilt Vascular Center utilizes several advanced methods of diagnostic testing and minimally-invasive surgical procedures to remove unwanted veins.