Differences Between Arteries (Structural and Functional)

Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to tissues. In contrast, the veins carry blood back to the heart from tissues.

There are many similarities and differences in them anatomically and physiologically.

difference between arteries and veins
Image by: BBC

The similarities include the presence of three layers of tissues in their walls, a hollow lumen to allow the flow of blood without any hindrance, distribution into deep tissues of the body, having branches, etc.

Main differences between arteries and veins

Sl.NoCharacters Arteries Veins
1Type of Blood They carry oxygenated blood rich in nutrients They carry impure blood rich in waste material of the body.
2Vessel Wall thickness Arteries have thicker wall (more tissue) The veins have thin walls (less tissue)
3Strength Arterial walls have more strength, when cut remain open Veins are comparatively delicate. When cut they collapse
4Stretch /distensible Arteries are not distensible Veins are distensible, So they can accommodate more blood.
5On CutBlood spurts out as a streamBlood oozes out without spurt
6Body location They are deep seated in the body. They are peripherally loacted in the body. Hence we can see blood vessels in the back of hands, on face, legs etc.
7Blood flow Blood flows by pulsatile manner corresponding to heart beat. No pulse, blood flows uniforms
8Flow pressure Blood flows due to pumping pressure of heart. So pressure is high. Blood flows due to capillary action of the veins. Pressure is low comparatively
9Oxygen level Oxygen levels is quite high in arterial blood Oxygen level is low comparatively
10Carbon-dioxide level CO2 level is low in arterial blood CO2 level is high in venous blood,
Flow direction From heart to the tissues From tissue to the heart.
11Blood volume Approximately 1/3rd of whole body blood is present in arteries 2/3rd of whole body blood is present in veins
12Appearance Color They are dark reddish color They are bluish red color.
13Valves There are no valves in the artery vessels. There are valves in the veins allowing blood to flow in upward direction.
14Diseases Arteries are susceptible to diseases like angina pectoris, atherosclerosis Less susceptible to diseases and includes diseases like varicose veins.
15Gravitational force Not affected by gravity to a large extent Can be affected by gravity and hence chances of orthostatic hypotension
16Reservoir Arteries have less bloodVeins have 2/3rd of blood in them at any point of time
17Clinical useTo read pulse rateTo extract blood for diagnosis

The differences in structure and functions.

Arteries and veins are the pipe-like vessels that carry blood in the body.

These are two similar yet different types of blood vessels forming the parts of the circulatory system.

In general, arteries carry away the blood pumped by the heart during systole.

While veins carry blood from the periphery of the body back to the heart.

From the heart, arteries start from the aorta, which branches out as arterioles.

These arterioles further branch out into capillaries.

These capillaries are so minute and pass in between cells and deeper into most parts of tissues. Thus they supply the blood containing oxygen and nutrients to each cell and tissues.

As seen in the image above, these capillaries extend to converge into veins. They collect the waste and carbon dioxide from the cells and tissue surroundings to bring into the blood for excretion.

These capillaries then converge to form a few venues that are a bit bigger in size.

These venules further converge to form veins.

These veins further converge to form the superior and inferior vena cava. These larger veins pour the collected deoxygenated blood into the heart. 

The heart sends the deoxygenated blood to the lungs through the pulmonary artery. And the oxygenated blood received through the pulmonary veins from the lungs is pumped into the arteries.

Difference Between Arteries and Veins their representation near heart
By: commons.wikimedia

Thus arteries carry pure blood from the heart to the tissues while the veins return impure blood. But interestingly, there are few exceptions to this rule.

A pulmonary vein brings pure oxygenated blood from the lungs into the heart.

While a pulmonary artery carries impure blood (carbonated) from the heart to the lungs, so these two are different from the rest of the blood veins and arteries only in terms of function.

Besides, there are also anatomical structural differences between them. These differences are meant to keep them safe, perform their function efficiently, and also to minimize the workload on the heart. Further, the energy requirement of the body to circulate the blood is minimized.

Anatomy and structure of arteries and veins.


Arteries are thickly walled and deeply located in the body. They are also highly elastic due to circular and oblique muscles in their walls. This elasticity helps to convey the pulse from the heart until the blood reaches the cells and tissues.

The blood in the arteries flows due to the pressure from the heart contraction. Hence, you can notice pulse in the arteries but not in veins. Even a physician checks your pulse rate by holding the arteries of the wrists or carotid artery in the neck.

The blood in arteries is reddish-brown and enriched with oxygen and nutrients.


These are thin-walled blood vessels located superficially in the body. Hence, you can see dark-colored veins below the skin in the arms, hands, thighs, etc. The blood flows in them under the influence of capillary action. In humans, this blood flows against the gravitation force.

So to prevent backflow, there are valves in the inner walls. These valves close down when the blood tends to flow downwards. Hence, the blood always moves in one direction in veins in-spite of lack of pulse.

The blood in the veins is bluish red and has a high concentration of carbon dioxide, urea, and other excretory waste.

Arteries receive blood due to pressure from the heart, while veins do not have that pressure.

Difference Between Arteries and Veins in terms of their walls and anatomy
By: Amy Decker


As seen in the differences above, arteries have thick walls as they have to bear the systolic pressure. Also, they have more muscle mass in the walls to propagate the pulse further due to elasticity.

This helps the blood move fast in the vessel to the tissues. Hence we can measure heart pulse from the wrist artery. A further thick wall may minimize the chances of oxygen and nutrients to diffuse to the surroundings.

Body location

Their deep-seated or location in the body may also be to prevent damage to them in injury to the body.

As their damage can destroy the organ receiving the blood faster. But for veins, there is another alternative called lymph vessels, which also carry waste from tissues. So damage can to them can be less severe.

The only condition is there should be no hemorrhage.


The pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the arteries is higher than that of the veins. This is because the blood flows in the arteries due to the pumping action of the heart.

This pumping action forces the blood to flow with speed leading to pressure in the arterial wall.

Whereas in the veins, the flow is due to capillary forces between the vein walls and the blood.

Hence, blood pressure is monitored for the arteries and not the veins.


Valves help in preventing the blood from flowing backward in the veins. The blood flows against gravity due to capillary action.

Since there is a change in gravitational pressure when sitting and standing up, there is a chance of variation in the flow pressure.

So valves prevent the backflow of blood in veins. This is not required in arteries.


The arteries are dark reddish due to oxygenated blood. While for veins, bluish-red is due to oxygenated blood.


Arteries are thick and carry nutrition. So, nutrition born disease occurs due to the accumulation of fat. While for veins, it is rare but occurs due to obstruction or physical damage to them.

Thus arteries and veins have functional and structural differences to suit the needs of the body.

1 thought on “Differences Between Arteries (Structural and Functional)”

Leave a Comment