The lymph system or lymphatic system is an extensive network of vessels that run through nearly every tissue in the body, allowing for the movement of lymph, a fluid, to circulate throughout the body in the same manner that blood circulates.
There are approximately 600 nodes in the body that swell when an individual has an infection. The swelling is due to the accumulation of lymph fluid, bacteria, and other organisms and or cells from the immune system. Very often, a physician will check the lymph nodes of the throat when a person is complaining of a throat infection, irritation, or sore throat. Physicians may also check the lymph nodes under the jaw, groin area, or even under the armpits when checking for an infection.
The lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system along with the bone marrow, tonsils, spleen, appendix, thymus gland, and specialized Peyer’s patches in the small intestine. This system consists of:
The lymphatic system drains into collecting docs that empty their contents into two vessels under the collarbones (subclavian veins), which lead to other veins forming a system that drains blood from the upper body into the heart (the superior vena cava). Thus, the three main functions of the lymphatic system are:
There are numerous influences that can affect the functioning of the lymphatic system. In order to simplify things, we’ll concentrate on three major factors that can disrupt the functioning of the lymphatic system: blockages, cancer, and infections.
Blockages and Obstructions
Lymphedema is an accumulation of fluid in the limp nodes that can occur as a result of scar tissue when the lymph nodes are damaged or by an infection of lymphatic vessels with a threadworm that blocks the lymphatic ducts in the system (filariasis).
Continuing use of drugs and alcohol, particularly when drugs are injected, can lead to significant scarring in the venous and lymphatic system that can facilitate the development of blockages in the lymphatic vessels. This can lead to significant issues with functioning of the lymphatic system and results in greater susceptibility to disease, which will further compromise the system.
Moreover, the development of cancer in the lymphatic system (lymphoma) can block the lymphatic system.
Tumors can block the lymphatic ducts or metastasize (travel) to lymph nodes interfering with the movement of lymphatic fluid through a node. It is rare that tumors actually develop in the lymphatic system, but this can occur.
The risk for developing numerous types of cancer occurs with chronic substance abuse. Several major substances of abuse can contribute to the increased risk of developing cancer.
Many drugs of abuse contain carcinogens that can increase the risk to develop cancer. Some of the more noteworthy illicit drugs that contain significant toxins and carcinogens that can increase the risk for cancer include:
Various infections can result in swollen lymph nodes that can compromise the functioning of the lymphatic system and lead to an infection of the lip nodes (lymphadenitis). This can negatively affect the system and lead to spreading the infection. Some of the drugs that are associated with an increased potential to develop lymphadenitis include:
It is safe to say that any type of chronic substance abuse can lead to a disruption of the efficiency of the lymphatic system. This can result due to a lack of attention to self-care, the direct effects of the drug itself, or the effects of substances that are added to the drug for various reasons. Compromise of the lymphatic system can lead to serious health issues that can eventually alter the course of a person’s life or even end it.