Lymphology is a branch of medical science concerning disorders related to the lymphatic vessels and nodes. However, it also covers various, sometimes very rare diseases affecting fat tissues (lipoedema, lipomatosis), malformations (angiodysplasia) involving the lymphatic vessels as well as, in the case of women, swelling that affects the whole body and is often related to menstruation.
The lymphatic vessels form a complex network that extends to almost all organs, tendons, ligaments, joints and bones. They represent a connection between the intercellular space (interstitium) and the venous system. Their job is to remove tissue fluid, proteins, foreign bodies and pathogens (bacteria, viruses, etc.) in order to support the proper functioning of the veins.
Lymphatic vessel disorders caused by narrowing or occlusion, dilations, inflammation or surgical procedures (lymphoedema of the arm following breast cancer treatment) and so on usually lead to fluid accumulations known as lymphoedema, which are both visible and palpable.
Lymphologists are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of these kinds of disorders. In most cases, a diagnosis is possible following a basic investigation that involves asking the patient questions, observing and touching the affected areas, as well as volume measurements. Typically, the only technical test required is an ultrasound of the tissues and vessels.
The treatment is generally conservative and surgical procedures such as lymph node transplants are rarely advised. In such instances, the lymphologist collaborates with vessel or plastic surgeons.