The blood vessels are the part of the circulatory system that transports blood throughout the body. There are three major types of blood vessels: the arteries, which carry the blood away from the heart; the capillaries, which enable the actual exchange of water and chemicals between the blood and the tissues; and the veins, which carry blood from the capillaries back toward the heart.
The arteries and veins have three layers, but the middle layer is thicker in the arteries than it is in the veins:
Tunica intima (the thinnest layer): a single layer of simple squamous endothelial cells glued by a polysaccharide intercellular matrix, surrounded by a thin layer of subendothelial connective tissue interlaced with a number of circularly arranged elastic bands called the internal elastic lamina.
Tunica media (the thickest layer in arteries): circularly arranged elastic fiber, connective tissue, polysaccharide substances, the second and third layer are separated by another thick elastic band called external elastic lamina. The tunica media may (especially in arteries) be rich in vascular smooth muscle, which controls the caliber of the vessel.
Tunica adventitia: (the thickest layer in veins) entirely made of connective tissue. It also contains nerves that supply the vessel as well as nutrient capillaries (vasa vasorum) in the larger blood vessels.
Capillaries consist of little more than a layer of endothelium and occasional connective tissue.
When blood vessels connect to form a region of diffuse vascular supply it is called an anastomosis (pl. anastomoses). Anastomoses provide critical alternative routes for blood to flow in case of blockages.
There is a layer of muscle surrounding the arteries and the veins which help contract and expand the vessels. This creates enough pressure for blood to be pumped around the body. Blood vessels are part of the circulatory system, together with the heart and the blood.