What’s the Difference Between Superficial and Deep Veins?

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superficial and deep veins in your circulatory system

Blood travels through our bodies in two different ways: through our arteries or veins. The main difference between a vein and an artery is their function. Arteries transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Veins transport blood back up from the legs to the heart.

Overall, your veins are divided into four main categories: deep, superficial, pulmonary, and systemic veins. The differences between deep and superficial veins can often be confusing to understand. In this guide, we’ll primarily focus on the superficial and deep veins in your legs.

What is a superficial vein?

A superficial vein is close to your  body’s surface and is often visible to the eye. Superficial veins appear whenever lifting heavy weights or during a period of intense strength training. The superficial vessels are responsible for carrying the blood from the tissues closer to the skin’s surface to the deep veins. Later on, the deep veins push the blood back toward the heart.

There are two kinds of superficial veins located in the lower extremities, these include:

  • Great saphenous vein (GSV) – The GSV is the large superficial vein of the leg and the longest vein in the entire body. It can be found along the length of the lower limb, returning blood from the thigh, calf, and foot to the deep femoral vein at the femoral triangle. The femoral triangle is located in the upper thigh.
  • Lesser saphenous veinWhen compared to the GSV, the lesser saphenous vein is much smaller in size. This vein connects and transports blood to the lateral surface of the leg as well as the popliteal vein.

In addition, the superficial veins also manage and monitor your body’s temperature. If your body becomes too hot, the deep veins pushes blood to the superficial veins in order to help the process of transferring or displacing the heat to other areas of the body.

Superficial venous insufficiency

Put simply, superficial venous conditions in the leg are disabling, costly, and, sadly, quite common. If left untreated, this form of venous incompetence can degrade a patient’s quality of life. In terms of data, almost 50 percent of the population suffers from superficial venous insufficiency by getting reticular or spider veins. However, for about 20 to 25 percent of the population, this vein disease can lead to highly visible varicosities in the lower limbs and may even cause skin changes and ulceration.

When a superficial vein’s valves fail to work properly, blood that normally flows from the legs upward through the valves, is able to flow backward, causing blood to pool within the leg veins. If blood is not able to circulate successfully, it can potentially cause ulcers, skin discoloration, blood clots, or varicosities (visible varicose veins). Superficial venous insufficiency is caused by inflammatory processes that damage a vein’s walls and valves.

Learn More About Venous Insufficiency

What are deep veins?

The veins located deep inside your body are known as deep veins. A deep vein is usually a large vein—way larger than the superficial ones—running through the muscles of the thigh and calf. A deep vein is located beside an artery that has the same name.

There are seven deep veins located in the lower extremities, they include:

  • Popliteal
  • Peroneal
  • Profunda femoris
  • Common femoral
  • Femoral
  • Anterior tibial
  • Posterio tibial

Due to the fact that deep veins collectively carry the majority of your blood, an obstruction can become life-threatening. Clotting or thrombosis causes obstruction of a deep vein. DVT or deep vein thrombosis occurs when a blood clot forms in the deep veins.

How does deep vein thrombosis develop?

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) typically occurs in the deep veins found in the legs. Blood clots occur when blood thickens and clumps together. It can either present no symptoms or cause pain, swelling, discoloration, cramping or warmth in the affected area.

This venous problem can cause swelling and pain in your veins and may even lead to life-threatening health conditions such as pulmonary embolism. Being a serious health condition, pulmonary embolism (PE) happens whenever a piece of a blood clot breaks in your bloodstream and blocks one of the lung’s blood vessels.

More Information About DVT

Treating vein disease with zero hassle

Since 2005, USA Vein Clinics offers a wide range of vein procedures. Both spider and varicose vein leg pain treatment, offered at our clinics is approved by the FDA. Our experienced vein specialists who understand a patient’s vein problem and deliver the right procedures. Because of that, this leg swelling and pain treatment center has become one of the most dependable names when it comes to getting rid of different vein problems.

If you would like to learn more about vein disease, contact us at 888.768.3467.

Don’t let painful legs negatively impact your daily life. Take the first step toward rebuilding a healthy venous network. Click the button below to schedule your appointment with one of our vein specialists at USA Vein Clinics.

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