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18.7E: Blood Flow in the Skin

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    Blood flow to the skin provides nutrition to skin and regulates body heat through the constriction and dilation of blood vessels.

    Learning Objectives
    • Identify the factors involved in blood flow in the skin

    Key Points

    • The small blood vessels in the skin contain muscles in their tunica media under the control of the sympathetic nervous system.
    • Contraction or relaxation of these muscles leads to vasoconstriction and vasodilation respectively.
    • This mechanism is used to alter loss of radiant heat, providing thermoregulation.

    Key Terms

    • anastomoses: The reconnection of two blood vessels that previously branched out.
    • cutaneous: Of, relating to, existing on, or affecting the exterior skin, especially the cutis.

    The skin contains a network of small blood vessels containing muscle fibers in their tunica media. These muscles are under the control of the sympathetic nervous system and provide an efficient means of thermoregulation through vasoconstriction and vasodilation.

    When vasoconstricted, blood flow through the skin is reduced, so less core heat is lost. With restricted blood flow, the skin appears paler. When vasodilated, blood flow through the skin is increased, meaning more core heat can be lost through radiation. With increased blood flow, the skin appears red.

    Arteriovenous anastomoses can be found in areas of the body exposed to maximal cooling, such as the hands, feet, nose, lips and ears. These richly innervated areas are called apical structures. The anastomoses connect cutaneous arterioles and venules directly, playing an important role in the reduction of blood flow in a cold environment.

    18.7E: Blood Flow in the Skin is shared under a CC BY-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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