Arteries are blood vessels. Most carry oxygen-rich blood from the heart to various organs and tissues. Arteries are a part of the circulatory system, along with the heart and other blood vessels.
The circulatory, or cardiovascular, system is essential for transporting blood around the body. It helps supply tissues with oxygen and nutrients and helps remove waste products.
The blood in arteries is typically oxygenated. The exception is that the
While arteries carry blood away from the heart, veins carry blood toward the heart. The arteries operate under higher pressure than other blood vessels, so they are typically thicker and more elastic.
In this article, we explore the anatomy, function, and types of arteries, as well as health conditions that affect them.
Generally, an artery has
- Tunica intima: This innermost layer consists of elastic membranes and tissues that help the blood move in the right direction.
- Tunica media: This is the middle layer and the thickest. It comprises elastin and smooth muscle.
- Tunica adventitia: This outermost layer consists of collagen fibers and elastin, which provide added strength. This layer also enables arteries to expand and contract, an important feature for controlling blood pressure.
The body contains three main types of arteries:
- Elastic: These arteries contain more elastic than muscular tissue. The increased flexibility helps them accommodate surges of blood. Elastic arteries, including the pulmonary artery and aorta, come out of the heart.
- Muscular: These arteries contain less elastin and more smooth muscle fiber. The elastic arteries feed into muscular arteries, and the smooth muscle fibers allow them to expand and contract to control blood flow. Examples of these arteries are the coronary and femoral arteries.
- Arterioles: Arteries branch out and become smaller vessels called arterioles, which help distribute blood through networks of capillaries, which are microscopic.
When the heart beats, it moves blood through the
Arteries play a vital role. For example, the aorta is the largest and
After supplying oxygen to distant tissues, the blood that is now low in oxygen travels through capillaries and collects in systemic veins. It then returns to the heart via the right atrium, and the process repeats.
Among the network of arteries in the body are:
The aorta is about
Head and neck arteries
Some examples include the right and left common carotid arteries, which are located in the neck. The external and internal carotid arteries branch off from the common carotids. The internal carotid supplies blood to the brain. The external carotid carries blood to the neck and lower face.
One is the bronchial artery, which supplies blood to the lungs. Another is the pericardial artery, which carries blood to the membrane around the heart.
The posterior and
One example is the celiac trunk, which supplies blood to the liver, spleen, and stomach. The
The inferior phrenic artery carries blood to the diaphragm. And the
Arteries in the arm include the
Arteries in the leg include the femoral arteries, which carry blood to the thigh. The
Arteries and veins are both blood vessels, but they have different functions. Arteries carry oxygenated blood away from the heart and to the rest of the body. Veins do the opposite — they carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart.
Their anatomical structures are slightly different, too. The walls of the arteries are more elastic and thicker than those of veins. This is important because blood travels through the arteries at a higher pressure than it does through the veins.
Learn more about the differences between arteries and veins.
Various health conditions can affect the arteries. Some examples include:
An aortic aneurysm involves an area of bulging or weakness in the aorta. If the vessel bursts, it is often fatal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that a history of smoking accounts for about
Symptoms can include:
- sudden chest or back pain
- sudden and severe abdominal pain
- trouble breathing
- low blood pressure
- trouble swallowing
Coronary artery disease
Coronary artery disease (CAD) involves a buildup of plaque in the lining of the coronary arteries.
Plaque consists of deposits of cholesterols, and a buildup can narrow the space that the blood travels through. Eventually, the buildup of plaque can block blood flow to the heart, leading to a heart attack.
Symptoms of CAD include:
- chest pain
- cold sweats
Peripheral artery disease
Peripheral artery disease (PAD) usually involves narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the legs and feet. According to the
Symptoms of PAD include:
- pain in the legs or hips
- leg fatigue
- trouble walking or climbing stairs
- sores in the feet or lower legs that do not heal
Pulmonary arterial hypertension
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) involves increased pressure in the arteries of the lungs. The arteries become narrowed and thick, which increases the pressure. This makes the heart work harder, and eventually, it can lead to heart failure.
According to the American Lung Association, up to 1,000 new cases of PAH develop in the country each year.
Symptoms of PAH include:
- shortness of breath
- chest pain
- swelling of the legs and feet
Learn more about health conditions that affect the circulatory system.
Arteries are a type of blood vessel. Most deliver oxygenated blood from the heart to the organs and tissues of the body. The largest artery is the aorta, which branches from the left ventricle of the heart.
Various health conditions can affect how well the arteries function, and some are severe. Anyone with symptoms of the conditions above should contact a healthcare professional.