Lymphatic system is a complex network of ducts, nodes and other organs that are located throughout the body. Its main function is to circulate the lymph fluid throughout the body. Lymph fluid is a clear, watery fluid which contains lymphocytes (lymphatic cells), which form an integral part of immune defense of the body. Thus, lymphatic system works as the first line of defense against all the possible infectious diseases.
Lymphatic System Functions
We would have fallen prey to various diseases and disorders, had it not been for the lymphatic system. It assists the immune system in various ways. The lymph fluid, that is circulated throughout the body, consists of antibodies and lymphocytes, which act as barrier for different types of micro organisms and other foreign bodies. When these bodies come in contact with the human body, production of lymphocytes is triggered immediately. Thus, disease causing micro organisms are destructed then and there itself.
Fluid and Protein Balance
When the blood circulates throughout the body, lot of fluid filtered by the capillaries gets trapped in the tissues of the body. This trapped fluid, also called interstitial fluid, comprises about 10% (1 - 2 liters) of the total fluid. The loss of this fluid is substantial as it is rich in several vital proteins that are required by the body cells. The lymphatic system prevents this loss by collecting this fluid in the lymphatic vessels and returning it to the circulatory system.
Lymphatic system also assists the digestive system in various ways. The lymphatic vessels that are located in the gastrointestinal lining help in the absorption of fats from the food that we eat. It is required for proper assimilation of fats in the body. Failure on the part of lymphatic system may result in serious malnutrition. Lymphatic system prevents obesity which results due to accumulation of 'bad' fat in the body.
Lymphatic system removes dead blood cells, excess fluid, waste, debris, etc., from the body, thereby assisting in excretion of waste materials from the body. It also removes pathogens, toxins and cancer cells from the body cells as well as inter cellular spaces. Thus, healthy and properly functioning lymphatic system is a must for the overall well-being of the human body.
Transportation of Nutrients
Lymphatic system works in collaboration with the circulatory system to transport various essential nutrients in the body. It delivers oxygen, hormones and other essential nutrients through the blood, to the body cells. Had it not been for the lymphatic systems, our body would have been deprived of these essential nutrients.
The most important of all lymphatic system functions is the fluid balancing function. Lymphatic capillaries act like drains and collect the excess fluid from the body. This fluid is filtered and returned in the blood. Filtration is required as large molecules like protein cannot enter the blood directly. Walls of the lymphatic system are more permeable than blood capillaries. In the absence of lymphatic system, excessive edema will occur and the body would blow up like a balloon. This eventually would result in destruction of cells and finally death of the individual. Lymphedema is the most common of all lymphatic disorders. In this condition, the lymphatic system can be absent or impaired due to some reason. There are around 0.6% live births with predisposition for primary lymphedema. Secondary lymphedema may develop later in life following a trauma, infection or surgery. Cancer of lymphatic system, commonly called lymphoma is also pretty common.
Thus, lymphatic system works as the lifeline of the body and conducts plethora of vital functions. Hence, it is important to always keep it functioning properly. If you experience an edema like condition, then get yourself checked on an urgent basis.