Veins are blood vessels in the circulatory system of humans and most other animals that carry blood toward the heart. Most veins carry deoxygenated blood from the tissues back to the heart; exceptions are those of the pulmonary and fetal circulations which carry oxygenated blood to the heart. In the systemic circulation arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart, and veins return deoxygenated blood to the heart, in the deep veins.
There are three sizes of veins, large, medium, and small. Smaller veins are called venules, and the smallest the post-capillary venules are microscopic that make up the veins of the microcirculation. Veins are often closer to the skin than arteries.
Veins have less smooth muscle, and connective tissue, and wider internal diameters than arteries. Because of their thinner walls and wider lumens they are able to expand and hold more blood. This greater capacity gives them the term of capacitance vessels. At any time, nearly 70% of the total volume of blood in the human body is in the veins. In medium and large sized veins the flow of blood is maintained by one-way (unidirectional) venous valves to prevent backflow. In the lower limbs this is also aided by muscle pumps, also known as venous pumps that exert pressure on intramuscular veins when they contract and drive blood back to the heart.
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