The Elusive Lymphatic system, where is it?

Posted by on Mar 15, 2016 in Articles | 0 comments

You probably have an idea that the lymphatic system looks something like the blood circulation. Heart, lungs, vessels all carrying blood around the system doing dropping off oxygen and nutrients and picking up carbon dioxide. The blood vessels are made up of big veins and arteries and gradually smaller vessels down to the capillaries which are tiny and leak blood profusely when you get that annoying paper cut. Have you also noticed at times if you scrape your skin and it is quite shallow that you ooze a more clear fluid, well generally this is lymph type fluid.

The lymphatic vessels are a little different in the way they are organised. The superficial smaller vessels are similar in size to blood capillaries and drain the whole of the skin and surface tissues. Deeper larger vessels drain the limbs and organs but they both meet up at clusters of lymph nodes and then flow into the central lymphatics. The main big lymphatic vessel comes up the centre of the body, through the chest and just below the neck it loops over and joins a big vein leading into the heart. The lymphatic vessels from the head and neck meet and drain into the blood circulation here too. So all of that ‘lymph’ from the body ultimately pours into the blood circulation

Lymph nodes are situated throughout the lymphatic system but there are bigger clusters in certain places. The main clusters are behind the knees, in the groin and deeper in the pelvis, all along the length of the gut (intestines), in the arm pits and in the neck. The ‘Lymph’ is mainly made up of the fluid that exists between our cells and around tissues, keeping everything lubricated and allowing chemicals and nutrients to move around. The lymph comes from the fluid part of the blood that moves out of the capillaries into the tissues and reaching all the cells in our body. Eventually this is taken up again into the small lymphatic capillaries, passes through the lymph nodes and to the bigger lymph vessels and eventually back into the blood circulation.

The lymph moves through the system by many auxiliary pumps. These include the muscle in the vessels themselves which can push the lymph through in a similar way to food being pushed through the gut, the movement of skeletal muscles, the changes in pressure in the chest with breathing, the pumping of the blood vessels when they run alongside the lymphatic vessels, and the big toe and heel also help the lymphatic return up your legs when you walk around.