Diagram showing the formation of lymph from interstitial fluid (labeled here as "Tissue fluid"). Note: how the tissue fluid is entering the blind ends of lymph capillaries (indicated by deep green arrows)
Lymphatic capillaries are slightly larger in diameter than blood capillaries, and have closed ends (unlike the loop structure of blood capillaries). Their unique structure permits interstitial fluid to flow into them but not out. The ends of the endothelial cells that make up the wall of a lymphatic capillary overlap. When pressure is greater in the interstitial fluid than in lymph, the cells separate slightly, like the opening of a one-way swinging door, and interstitial fluid enters the lymphatic capillary. When pressure is greater inside the lymphatic capillary, the cells adhere more closely, and lymph cannot escape back into interstitial fluid. Attached to the lymphatic capillaries are anchoring filaments, which contain elastic fibers. They extend out from the lymphatic capillary, attaching lymphatic endothelial cells to surrounding tissues. When excess interstitial fluid accumulates and causes tissue swelling, the anchoring filaments are pulled, making the openings between cells even larger so that more fluid can flow into the lymphatic capillary.