The Lymphatic System consists of organs, ducts and nodes that transport clear, watery fluid called lymph. Lymph is an interstitial (tissue) fluid that bathes and surrounds the cells that includes plasma, water and other cellular items. Generally speaking people have about 2.4 gallons of this stuff floating around in their systems, which provides the body with nutrients and a means of waste removal.
Also included in the lymphatic system is the lymphoid tissue which helps the immune system defend the body against tumors and infections. Lymphoid tissues are composed of connective tissue, lymphocytes (specific types of white blood cells) and lymph nodes. Lymph nodes, which are found throughout the body, serve as filters or traps for foreign particles. They keep the good stuff in and let the bad stuff flow through the lymphatic system to be disposed of so that the body can remain in good working order.
- The primary functions of the lymphatic systems are:
- the collection and return of interstitial fluid, including plasma protein to the blood, thus maintaining fluid balance.
- the defense of the body against disease by production of lymphocytes.
- the absorption of lipids from the intestine and transportation of them to the blood.
Therefore, the lymphatic system is vitally important in collecting extra lymph fluid from body tissues and returning it to the blood. The process is especially crucial because the body continuously leaks water, proteins and other substances out of tiny blood capillaries into surrounding tissues. When the lymphatic system doesn’t function properly, lymph fluid can build up in these tissues, swelling them up and creating illnesses such as lymphedema, lymphoma and a variety of other diseases.
In addition, the lymphatic system helps defend the body against germs like viruses, bacteria and fungi that can cause illness. These germs are filtered via the lymph nodes, which house the lymphocytes. The lymphocytes then make antibodies to fight off germs, trapping disease and destroying them. With the help of the spleen, the disease is then carried off into the blood stream and disposed of properly.