The well-being of every individual depends on the health of the lymphatic system. Just imagine what that can mean in fighting a broad array of diseases. With more awareness from the medical and scientific communities and individuals like you, we can help conquer lymphedema and related lymphatic disorders, cancer, AIDS, and other illnesses. There are millions of people worldwide who currently suffer with a disorder or disease of the lymphatic system. There are also millions of others who are at risk for lymphatic malfunction such as individuals who have had surgery, injury, infection, or some other insult to their lymphatics. This list does not even include the hundreds of millions suffering from other diseases that would benefit from advances in lymphatic research and insight.
As blood moves through the arteries and veins, 10% of the fluid filtered by the capillaries, along with vital proteins, becomes trapped in the tissues of the body. This loss of this fluid (approximately 1-2 liters/day) would rapidly become life threatening if the lymphatic system did not properly function. The lymphatic system collects this fluid and returns it to the circulatory system.
The lymphatic system plays an integral role in the immune functions of the body. It is the first line of defense against disease. This network of vessels and nodes transports and filters lymph fluid containing antibodies and lymphocytes (good) and bacteria (bad). The body's first contact with these invaders signals the lymphatics, calling upon this system to orchestrate the way the infection-fighting cells prevent illness and diseases from invading microorganisms.
Lymph vessels in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract absorb fats from food. A malfunction of this part of the lymphatic system can result in serious malnutrition. The lymphatic system also impacts diseases such as excessive obesity caused by abnormal fat and carbohydrate metabolism.
The most prevalent lymphatic disorder is lymphatic insufficiency, or lymphedema. This is an accumulation of lymphatic fluid in the interstitial tissue causing swelling, most often in the arm(s) and/or leg(s), and occasionally in other parts of the body. The severity of this disease varies from very mild complications to a disfiguring, painful and disabling condition. In addition, patients are often susceptible to serious life-threatening cellulite infections(deep skin), and if untreated, can spread systemically or require surgical intervention. It remains a lifelong functional problem requiring daily treatment for maintenance. Eventually the skin becomes fibrotic (thickening of the skin and subcutaneous tissues) with loss of normal architecture, function and mobility.
Primary Lymphedema is an inherited condition in approximately 0.6% of live births. The lymphatic vessels are either missing or impaired and can affect from one to as many as four limbs and/or other parts of the body, including internal organs. It can be present at birth, develop at the onset of puberty or present in adulthood, with no apparent causes. Other lymphatic diseases include lipedema, cystic hygromas, lymphangiomas, lymphangiectasias, lymphangiomatosis and other mixed vascular/lymphatic malformation syndromes and conditions, such as Turner-Weber and Klippel Trenauney Syndrome.
Secondary Lymphedema (acquired regional lymphatic insufficiency) is a common problem among adults and children in the United States. It can occur following any trauma, infection or surgery that disrupts the lymphatic channels or results in the loss of lymph nodes. Among the more than 3 million breast cancer survivors alone, acquired or secondary lymphedema is believed to be present in approximately 30% of these individuals, predisposing them to the same long-term problems as described above. Lymphedema also results from prostate, uterine, cervical, abdominal, orthopedic cosmetic (liposuction) and other surgeries, malignant melanoma, and treatments used for both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Radiation, sports injuries, tattooing, and any physical insult to the lymphatic pathways can also cause lymphedema. Even though lymphatic insufficiency may not immediately present at the time any of the events occur, these individuals are at life-long risk for the onset of lymphedema.
Filariasis is a world health problem resulting from a parasitic-caused infection causing lymphatic insufficiency, and in some cases predisposes elephantiasis. The World Health Organization's recent efforts to eradicate the spread of infection do not address or eliminate the resulting lymphedema.
Lymphoma is a general term for a group of cancers that originate in the lymphatic system. The lymphomas are divided into two major categories: Hodgkin lymphoma and all other lymphomas, called non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Lymphomas are cancers that begin by the malignant transformation of a lymphocyte in the lymphatic system. Lymphomas, including Hodgkin lymphoma, result from an acquired injury to the DNA of a lymphocyte. Scientists know that the damage to the DNA occurs after birth and, therefore, is acquired rather than inherited. Lymphomas generally start in lymph nodes or collections of lymphatic tissue in organs like the stomach or intestines. Lymphomas may involve the marrow and the blood in some cases.
· 10 years ago