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Lymphangitis – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Written by Dr.Mary

What is Lymphangitis?

Lymphangitis is inflammation of the lymphatic channels that happens because of an infection most commonly caused by Streptococcus pyogenes, and is also the bacteria that causes strep throat. It also often is caused by infections of the heart, spinal cord, and lungs. Due to its capacity to cause lymphangitis, this bacterium is also often discussed as “flesh-eating bacterium”. The Staphylococci bacteria may also be a cause of lymphangitis.


As bacteria moves thru the lymphatic structure, they make the vessels inflamed. This inflammation creates red streaks that are typical of lymphangitis. Subsequently this bacterium grows so rapidly, the system of immunity is not able to respond fast enough to stop the infection from developing.

This inflammation of the lymphatic vessels and channels which is characterized by definite inflammatory conditions of the skin referred to as bacterial infections. Thin lines that are red might be observed running along the entire course of the lymphatic vessels in the area that is affected, accompanied by enlarged and painful nearby lymph nodes. When left not treated, this condition may spread quickly thru out the blood system and in some cases can be fatal.

Lymphangitis Symptoms

Symptoms and signs of lymphangitis consist of:

  • Streaks of red on the skin: Lymphangitis in the arm, back of the leg, in the hand from a wound in the finger.
  • Redness of the skin: Face, ear, neck, arm, leg, ankle, foot, hand, back, chest
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Skin warmth
  • Skin pain
  • Leg pain and Leg pain – bilateral
  • Swollen lymph glands – localized

Additional symptoms of Lymphangitis might include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Vomiting

Lymphangitis Causes

Lymphangitis is known by the painful, red streaks that can be seen beneath the skin surface. These streaks typically run from the origin of the infection to the armpit or groin area. The entire arm might swell, and blisters might also develop.

The bacteria causing lymphangitis may get into the body in a number of ways. Entry methods that are common include cuts, surgical wounds, scratches, insect bites, and other types of skin wounds. After the bacteria enter successfully the lymphatic system, they can multiply and move throughout the system.

When lymphangitis is not treated, the infection may eventually destroy the tissue in the site where the infection first developed. This allows abscesses that are painful lumps pus filled to form. The skin layers that are lower might become infected as well which is how lymphangitis enters the blood system.

Some individuals are most at risk for lymphangitis developing than others. Women who have had a mastectomy that involves removing the breast as well as the lymph nodes are most prone to this disease developing. Individuals that have had a leg vein removed to perform a coronary bypass surgery also are at a great risk.

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Lymphangitis Treatment

Lymphangitis treatment is dependent on the underlying reason for the infection. Treatment usually includes rest, warm compresses, elevation, antibiotics as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication or NSAIDs for pain.

Options for treatment for lymphangitis might include:

  • Rest
  • Compresses that are warm
  • Elevation of area that is affected
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain:
    • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, NeoProfen, Advil)
    • Ketoprofen (Orudis, Actron, Oruvail)
    • Naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve, Aanaprox)
  • Pain medication narcotic:
    • For moderate to severe pain
    • For use short term only
  • Antibiotic therapy:
    • Dicloxacillin
    • Cephalexin (Keflex)
    • Nafcillin
    • Cefuroxime (Zinacef)
    • Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
    • Trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMZ, Bactrim, Septra)
    • Clindamycin (Cleocin)

Surgery for lymphangitis

Aspiration by needle for lymphangitis:

Removing fluid that is infected from an abscess by a needle.

Drainage and incision for lymphangitis:

Making an incision thru the skin, in order to drain an abscess.

Incision and drainage:

  • Skin is sterilized using antibacterial soap or rubbing alcohol.
  • A local anesthetic is injected in the tissues that surround the abscess.
  • An incision is then performed by a scalpel.
  • Abscess is drained of pus.
  • Abscess cavity is cleanly flushed.
  • In certain cases, a strip of sterile gauze or a rubber drain is packed in the cavity of the abscess.
  • The drain or gauze is put inside the cavity usually removed in 24-36 hours.

Lymphangitis Pictures

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