Lymphangitis is an infection of the lymph vessels (channels). It is a common complication of a bacterial infection.
See also: Lymphadenitis
The lymph system is a network of organs, lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels (or channels) that produce and move a fluid called lymph from tissues to the bloodstream. For more information on this part of the body, see lymph system.
Lymphangitis commonly results from an acute streptococcal or staphylococcal infection of the skin or an abscess in the skin or soft tissues. The infection causes the lymph vessels to become swollen and tender.
Lymphangitis may be a sign that an infection is getting worse. It should raise concerns that bacteria is spreading into the bloodstream, which can cause life-threatening problems.
Lymphangitis may be confused with a clot in a vein (thrombophlebitis).
- Red streaks from infected area to the armpit or groin (may be faint or obvious)
- Throbbing pain along the affected area
- Fever of 100 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit
- General ill feeling
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle aches
Exams and Tests
The doctor will perform a physical exam, which includes feeling your lymph nodes. The doctor may look for signs of injury around swollen lymph nodes.
A biopsy and culture of the affected area may reveal the cause of the inflammation. Blood cultures may be done to see if the infection has spread to the bloodstream.
Lymphangitis may spread within hours. Treatment should begin promptly.
Treatment may include:
- Antibiotics to treat any underlying infection
- Analgesics to control pain
- Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and swelling
- Hot moist compresses to reduce inflammation and pain
Surgery may be needed to drain any abscess.
Prompt treatment with antibiotics may result in complete recovery, though it may take weeks, or even months, for swelling to disappear. The amount of time until recovery occurs varies, depending on the underlying cause.
- Abscess formation
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider or go to the emergency room if you have symptoms of lymphangitis.
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