Lymphangitis is an infection of lymph vessels. Lymph vessels are part of the immune system. They help carry infected fluids away from the site of an infection.
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Lymphangitis is caused by bacteria.
It starts with a bacterial skin infection. When the lymph vessels start to carry fluids away from the infection, the bacteria can move into the lymph vessels and begin to grow. The growth causes the infection.
Risk factors include: Injury to the skinHaving a bacterial skin infection
Symptoms may include: Redness or red streaks on the skinPain SwellingWarmth at the site of the infectionFever or chillsFluids or pus leaking from the affected areaSwollen glands
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is often made on appearance alone.
Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested to determine the exact type of bacteria causing the infection. This can be done with: Blood culture Skin biopsy and cultures
Lymphangitis indicates a spread of the infection. Treatment is important to keep the infection from spreading into the blood.
Your doctor may recommend: Antibiotics to treat infectionOver-the-counter medications to treat swelling and reduce painWarm compresses to reduce swelling and pain
Lymphangitis is usually caused by spread from a skin infection. If you have a skin infection, follow your doctor’s treatment plan.
To reduce your risk of getting a skin infection: Keep your skin clean.Apply lotion to dry skin.Take steps to avoid injury to the skin: Wear protective gear in sports.Wear long-sleeved shirts when hiking.Wear sandals when at the beach, rather than going barefoot.Be careful around animals. Treat pets with respect to avoid bites.Do not swim in natural waters if you have cuts or sores.If a small cut, bite, or other injury occurs: Clean cuts or scrapes with soap and water.Apply antibiotic ointment.Cover with a bandage or dressing.Do not scratch wounds.Call your doctor right away if the area becomes red or swollen.Seek prompt medical care for larger wounds or bites.If your legs tend to swell, elevate them several times a day.
Information about skin infection. Akron Children’s Hospital website. Available at: https://www.akronchildrens.org/cms/conditions/f99b25a263661a51. Accessed January 21, 2014.
Lymphangitis. University of Minnesota Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.uofmmedicalcenter.org/healthlibrary/Article/116272EN. Accessed January 21, 2014.
Last reviewed February 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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