Lymphatic system

The lymphatic system is the body system that circulates the “lymph” fluid, which is used to remove waste products. The system consists of the lymph nodes (or lymph glands) and the lymphatic vessels. Lymphatic symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, swollen spleen, lymph node pain, and other lymph gland symptoms. Lymphatic disorders include lymphadenopathy, lymphedema, lymphoma (Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma), and various other disorders.

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The lymph system is made up of the following:

  • Lymph: Colorless, watery fluid that carries white blood cells called lymphocytes through the lymph system. Lymphocytes protect the body against infections and the growth of tumors.
  • Lymph vessels: A network of thin tubes that collect lymph from different parts of the body and return it to the bloodstream.
  • Lymph nodes: Small, bean-shaped structures that filter lymph and store white blood cells that help fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes are located along the network of lymph vessels found throughout the body. Clusters of lymph nodes are found in the neck, underarm, abdomen, pelvis, and groin.
  • Spleen: An organ that makes lymphocytes, filters the blood, stores blood cells, and destroys old blood cells. It is located on the left side of the abdomen near the stomach.
  • Thymus: An organ in which lymphocytes grow and multiply. The thymus is in the chest behind the breastbone.
  • Tonsils: Two small masses of lymph tissue at the back of the throat. The tonsils make lymphocytes.
  • Bone marrow: The soft, spongy tissue in the center of large bones. Bone marrow makes white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Lymph tissue is also found in other parts of the body such as the stomach, thyroid gland, brain, and skin.

Source: NCI (NIH)1

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Lymphatic system: The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and tissues composed of lymph, an extracellular fluid, and lymphoid organs, such as lymph nodes. The lymphatic system is a conduit for travel and communication between tissues and the bloodstream. Immune cells are carried through the lymphatic system and converge in lymph nodes, which are found throughout the body.

Lymph nodes are a communication hub where immune cells sample information brought in from the body. For instance, if adaptive immune cells in the lymph node recognize pieces of a microbe brought in from a distant area, they will activate, replicate, and leave the lymph node to circulate and address the pathogen. Thus, doctors may check patients for swollen lymph nodes, which may indicate an active immune response.

Source: NIAID (NIH)2

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Lymphatic System: A system of organs and tissues that process and transport immune cells and Lymph.3

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  1. Source: NCI (NIH): types/ lymphoma/ patient/ adult-hodgkin-treatment-pdq
  2. Source: NIAID (NIH): topics/ immuneSystem/ Pages/ overview.aspx
  3. Source: MeSH (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  4. Source: MedLinePlus (NIH): lymphaticdiseases.html
  5. [from HPO]
  6. Source: GTR (NCBI/NIH): gtr/ conditions/ C0497156/ 
  7. Source: MedLinePlus (NIH): lymphedema.html
  8. Source: MedLinePlus (NIH): hodgkindisease.html

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.