As a curious child, you might remember staring at an older relative's thick stockings at the blue, gnarled veins lying under the skin like bumpy snakes. Known as varicose veins, these blood vessels, which return blood from the legs to the heart, are actually a more superficial system.
The real, working venous system for the legs lies deeper, says to Robert A. Weiss, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. This is good news, because it means that if the surface veins begin to clump up and bulge, they can be removed or destroyed without ruining circulation to the leg.
The National Institutes of Health estimates that 60% of all men and women suffer from some form of vein disorder. A quarter of varicose vein sufferers are men, although Weiss notes that it is almost always women who seek help for spider veins.