Superficial vein is a term used to describe a vein that is close to the surface of the body. It is used to differentiate veins that are close to the surface from veins that are far from the surface, known as deep veins.
Superficial veins are not paired with an artery, unlike the deep veins, which typically have an artery with the same name close by.
Superficial veins are important physiologically for cooling of the body. When the body is too hot the body shunts blood from the deep veins to the superficial veins, to facilitate heat transfer to the surroundings. Superficial veins can be seen under the skin. Ones below the level of the heart tend to bulge out. An immediate way to see this by looking at your hand: raise it above your heart and the blood should drain--lower it below your heart it will fill. Veins become more visually prominent when lifting heavy weight, especially after a period of proper strength training.
Physiologically, the superficial veins are not as important as the deep veins (as they carry less blood) and are sometimes removed in a procedure called vein stripping, which is used to treat varicose veins.
Some named superficial veins
- The Veins of the Lower Extremity, Abdomen, and Pelvis - Gray's Anatomy.
- Varicose vein therapy - medlineplus.org