Infectious Diseases of the Lymphatic and Immune systems and Haematology

The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a clear, colorless fluid containing white blood cells that helps rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.  Lymphatic comes from the Latin word lymphaticus, meaning “connected to water,” as lymph is clear.

The lymphatic system, which is a subset of the circulatory system, has a number of functions, including the removal of interstitial fluid, the extracellular fluid that bathes most tissue. It also acts as a highway, transporting white blood cells to and from the lymph nodes into the bones, and antigen-presenting cells to the lymph nodes.


Diseases and disorders of the lymphatic system are typically treated by immunologists. Vascular surgeons, dermatologists, oncologists and physiatrists also get involved in treatment of various lymphatic ailments. There are also lymphedema therapists who specialize in the manual drainage of the lymphatic system.
Lymphedema is a chronic swelling of the limbs caused by the accumulation of lymph fluid that occurs if the lymphatic system is damaged or not functioning properly. While the limbs are typically involved, the face, neck and abdomen may also be affected. Many develop the disorder following cancer therapy — particularly breast cancer where the lymph nodes under the arms are removed — recurrent infections, injuries or vascular surgery.
• Hodgkin’s lymphoma is a type of cancer that typically occurs when the white blood cells in the body become diseased or damaged.
• Castleman disease is caused by benign tumors that affect the lymph nodes. While not specifically a cancer, it is a similar to a lymphoma and is often treated with chemotherapy. Localized Castleman disease affects the lymph nodes of the stomach and chest. Multicentric Castleman disease affects greater than one region of lymph nodes as well as lymphoid-containing organs such as the spleen.
• Lymphangiomatosis is a disease involving multiple cysts or lesions formed from lymphatic vessels.
• In elephantiasis, infection of the lymphatic vessels causes a thickening of the skin and enlargement of underlying tissues, especially in the legs and genitals.
• Lymphangiosarcoma is a malignant soft-tissue tumor, whereas lymphangioma is a benign tumor occurring frequently in association with Turner syndrome.
• Lymphangioleiomyomatosis is a benign tumor of the smooth muscles of the lymphatics in the lungs.
• Lymphoid leukaemias and lymphomas are called “leukaemia” when in the blood or marrow and “lymphoma” when in lymphatic tissue.
• Lymphatic filiaris is a disease in which parasitic worms infiltrate the lymph system via the bite of a mosquito. About 120 million people worldwide are affected by this disease.