How Does Lymphatic System Work? Functions and Purpose

by | Apr 4, 2020 | Anatomy | 0 comments

HOW DOES LYMPHATIC SYSTEM WORK

Lymphatic System is a tissue and organ system, which helps body to get rid of toxins, waste materials and other unwanted substances.

Did You know? There are about 600-700 lymph nodes in the human body.

Primary function of lymphatic system is to transport lymph throughout the body. Lymph is a liquid that contains white blood cells – main fighters against infection.

This system mainly comprises lymph nodes, that resembles blood vessels and capillaries in the circulatory system.

It connects lymph nodes with lymph vessels, where lymph gets filtrated. It also includes several organs in the lymphatic system –

  • Tonsils
  • Adenoids
  • Spleen
  • Thymus

Humans have several hundreds of lymph nodes. They are located deep inside the body, for example, around the heart and lungs, also closer to the outer surface, like armpits and groin.

Lymph nodes in the body are located approximately from the head to the knees. The largest lymphoid organ is the spleen – it is on the left side above the kidneys.

If the spleen identifies potentially dangerous bacteria in the blood, viruses and other microorganisms, together with the lymph nodes, it produces white blood cells – lymphocytes, who are battling these bacteria.

Lymphocytes secrete antibodies, which kills foreign organisms and prevents the infection from spreading further.

A person can survive without the spleen, however, if we lose it because of illness or injury, he is much more at risk of infections.

The thorax is located just behind the heart in the chest. It is a small organ, in which immature lymphocytes live (specialized white blood cells), and thorax prepares them for becoming active T cells, which helps to kill infected cells.

Tonsils are an extensive collection of lymphatic cells that are allocated inside the throat.

Tonsils are the first protective barrier in the body’s immune system. They check for bacteria and viruses that have entered the body through the mouth and nose.

Sometimes tonsils are inflammable, and tonsil extraction is one of most common surgical operations. We usually recommend it in cases of frequent neck illness.

Lymph is transparent, uncolored liquid. Blood plasma flows out of the cells as soon as it has supplied them with nutrients and taken away the unnecessary substances.

Most of the fluid returns to the through tiny blood vessels and connects with venous blood. It converts the remaining fluid into lymph. Lymph, unlike the blood circling around the body in the circle, flows only in one direction – up to the neck.

Lymphatic connects to two mandibular veins that are on both sides of the neck close to the collarbone, and the fluid re-enters the circulatory system.

normal inflamed tonsils vector illustration 260nw 1123493897

Tonsils

There are three pairs of tonsils in the body –

  • Throat tonsils or adenoids
  • Palate tonsils
  • Tongue tonsils – lymphoid tissues on the surface of the base of the tongue

When people are talking about tonsils, they are referring to Palate tonsils – oval, pea-sized clusters of lymph cells on either side of the throat at the very opening.

For children they can look quite large, however, for adults they are much smaller.

Tonsils are small and can be thought that they are useless, however they have multiple functions.

Tonsils prevent foreign bodies from slipping into the lungs. They are filtering bacteria and viruses, also secrete white blood cells and antibodies.

Diseases And Disorders Of The Lymphatic System

Most common lymphatic system disease is lymph node enlargement – lymphadenopathy, swelling associated with lymph node blockade, called lymphedema or lymphatic system cancer.

When bacteria are identified in the lymph, lymph nodes are secreting more white blood cells, and that can cause the swelling.

Swollen lymph nodes can sometimes be felt on the neck, armpits and groin. 

Lymphadenopathy is caused by infection, inflammation or cancer. Infections such as streptococcus can cause it, inflamed wounds in the skin and virus infections, for example, mononucleosis or HIV.

Swelling of the lymph nodes can be local – only in the infected area, as with streptococci, or general – HIV patients. 

Sometimes swelling can be felt, however, sometimes it is deep inside the body and can be seen only via ultrasound or magnetic resonance. 

Inflammation and autoimmune disease occur when the immune system is active and can cause swelling. This may occur with systematic lupus erythematosus.

Diagnosis And Treatment

Lymphatic diseases and disorders are usually treated by immunologists, also involving vascular surgeons, dermatologists, oncologists and other specialists.

There are also lymphedema physicians who specialize in manual treatment of the lymphatic system. 

Lymphatic system disorders are usually diagnosed, when characteristic symptoms appear – lymph node swelling.

We can notice swelling when lymph nodes have enlarged so far, that they can be felt or seen via ultrasound or magnetic resonance.

In most cases enlarged lymph nodes are nothing dangerous – it means that body is fighting the infection, for example, upper respiratory tract virus.

If lymph nodes enlarge and stay that way, when infection has already gone, this is when you should worry about it! If length is larger than 1 cm – then go immediately to see a doctor.

Treatment of lymphatic diseases depends on the cause. We treat infections with antibiotics, appropriate therapy, or antiviral preparations.

We combat lymphatic system cancer with chemotherapy, surgically or combining various methods.

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