What is the Lymphatic System?

The Lymphatic System is part of the Circulatory System and is the system of the body that is responsible for collecting and removing waste such as bacteria, cell debris, excess water, proteins, and other wastes that are too large for blood to carry from the connective tissues of the body. It is also an important part of the immune system. White blood cells are produced and stored in the Lymphatic System, and these cells are responsible for protecting the body from foreign invaders and pathogens. The Lymphatic System is comprised of lymphatic vessels, lymph, lymph nodes, and various organs.

What is Lymph?

Lymph is is the colorless fluid this is transported by the lymphatic vessels. Any protein, fluid, or waste that originates in the connective tissues is called lymph once it is absorbed into the lymphatic vessels. Lymph also contains white blood cells, which destroy pathogens.

What are Lymphatic Vessels?

Lymphatic vessels look similar to the vessels of the circulatory system. They cover the body in a network of smaller capillaries and larger vessels that are responsible for picking up wastes and fluids in the body and transporting them to the heart. Once wastes are disposed into the heart, they are further filtered by the kidneys. Unlike the heart, there is no central pump to move the lymph along the vessels. This means that the system relies on other movement in the body to transport lymph, such as blood circulation, breathing, and muscle contractions.

What are Lymph Nodes?

Lymph nodes are kidney-shaped organs that are responsible for filtering pathogens and foreign substances that are in the lymph. Lymph nodes contain large concentrations of white blood cells, which destroy bacteria and other pathogens. The largest concentrations of lymph nodes are in the sides of the neck (cervical lymph nodes), in the armpit (axillary lymph nodes), and in the anterior hip area (inguinal lymph nodes).

What are the other organs of the Lymphatic System?

The other organs that function in the Lymphatic System are the spleen, thymus, tonsils, and bone marrow. The spleen is the largest lymphatic organ in the body and helps fight infection by purifying blood, creating white blood cells, and synthesizing antibodies. The thymus gland matures a type of white blood cell called a T cell. The tonsils are a collection of lymphoid tissues that trap pathogens that enter the mouth and nose. They contain white blood cells that produce antibodies to kill pathogens. Bone marrow creates white blood cells. Some of these white blood cells stay in the bone marrow to mature into a type of white blood cell called a B cell.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is a condition where an excess of fluid (edema) collects in tissues and causes swelling due to an obstruction or removal of lymphatic vessels. There are various causes of this, but a common one is lymph node removal or damage due to cancer treatment.