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What Comes Next? Managing PAD and Other Risks

Unlike arteries, veins have flaps inside called valves. When your muscles contract, these valves open, moving blood through the vessels. When your muscles relax, the valves close so the blood can only flow in one direction. Muscle contractions in your lower legs act as pumps, and elastic vein walls help blood return to your heart. Tiny valves in your veins open as blood flows toward your heart then close to stop blood from flowing backward. If these valves are weak or damaged, blood can flow backward and pool in the vein, causing the veins to stretch or twist. Damaged valves don’t close the way they should when your muscles relax, allowing blood to flow in both directions, and it can pool, causing varicose veins. Arteries carry blood from your heart to the rest of your tissues, and veins return blood from the rest of your body to your heart, so the blood can be recirculated. To return blood to your heart, the veins in your legs must work against gravity.


Varicose veins may bulge like purple ropes under your skin and can also look like small red or purple bursts on your knees, calves, or thighs. These spider veins happen because of swollen small blood vessels called capillaries. After a day of activity, your legs might ache, sting, or swell.

Spider veins are similar to varicose veins, but they’re smaller and are found closer to the skin’s surface, often red or blue. Spider veins occur on the legs, but can also be found on the face. They vary in size and are often described as having a spider web appearance.

Signs and symptoms occur, they may include:

Self-care — such as exercise, elevating your legs or wearing compression stockings — can help you ease the pain of varicose veins and may prevent them from getting worse. But if you’re concerned about how your veins look and feel, see your doctor.

Risk factors:  These factors increase your risk of developing varicose veins:

Prevention:  There’s no way to completely prevent varicose veins, but improving your circulation and muscle tone may reduce your risk of developing varicose veins or getting additional ones. The same measures you can take to treat the discomfort from varicose veins at home can help prevent varicose veins, including: