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Physiology Of The Lymphatic System

Written by Amy Hall
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The Anatomy and Physiology of the Lymphatic System

The physiology of the lymphatic system has been widely studied by researchers and health care professionals who diagnose and treat lymphedema in patients. The lymphatic system is a network of vessels carrying lymph (tissue-cleansing fluid) from the tissues into the veins of the circulatory system. The lymphatic system functions along with the circulatory system in absorbing nutrients from the small intestines.

The lymphatic system is also responsible for absorbing a large portion of digested fats via the lymphatic capillaries. Like the blood circulatory system, the lymphatic system is composed of fine capillaries that lie adjacent to the blood vessels. These small capillaries merge into larger tributaries known as trunks, and these in turn merge into two still larger vessels called ducts. The thoracic and right lymphatic ducts empty into the venous system in the collarbone area.

What Is Lymph?

Lymph is a colorless fluid whose composition is similar to that of blood, except it does not contain red blood cells or platelets, and contains much less protein, is continuously passing through the walls of the capillaries. It transports nutrients to the cells and collects wastes. Most of the lymph returns to the venous capillaries; however, a small amount enters the terminal lymphatic capillaries and is returned to the blood via the lymphatic system.

These functions are important because the lymph that flows through this system contains substances having large molecules (such as proteins and bacteria) that cannot enter the small pores of the venous capillaries. The lymph nodes continuously filter out "bad" materials, like bacteria, and return the cleansed lymph to the the lymph vessels for transport throughout the body. The physiology of the lymphatic system is quite complex, and without it we can not function normally or fight off infection properly.

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