Lymphangitis (Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymph vessels)

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Overview

lymphangitis, bacterial infection of the lymphatic vessels. The condition is caused by streptococcus or staphylococcus organisms that have entered the body through a skin wound. The inflamed lymph vessels are visible as red streaks under the skin that extend from the site of infection to the groin or armpit. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, headache, and loss of appetite. In acute infection, bacteria may spread from the lymph vessels to blood vessels, causing a potentially fatal condition known as septicemia. The spread of infection can be controlled or prevented with prompt treatment, which usually involves an injection of an antibiotic, such as penicillin or clindamycin. In addition, anti-inflammatory drugs and analgesics (pain-relieving agents) may be given. The application of compresses to inflamed areas of skin also can be used to control pain and swelling. In some cases, abscesses may form; these are often drained surgically.

Symptoms

Fever and chills.

Enlarged and tender lymph nodes (glands) -- usually in the elbow, armpit, or groin.

General ill feeling (malaise)

Headache.

Loss of appetite.

Muscle aches.

Red streaks from the infected area to the armpit or groin (may be faint or obvious)

Throbbing pain along the affected area.

Causes

nfectious lymphangitis occurs when bacteria or viruses enter the lymphatic channels. They may enter through a cut or wound, or they may grow from an existing infection.

The most common infectious cause of lymphangitis is acute streptococcal infection. It may also be the result of a staphylococcal (staph) infection. Both of these are bacterial infections.

Lymphangitis may occur if you already have a skin infection and it’s getting worse. This might mean that bacteria will soon enter your bloodstream. Complications such as sepsis, a life-threatening condition of body-wide inflammation, can occur as a result.

Conditions that increase your risk of lymphangitis include:

diabetes

immunodeficiency, or loss of immune function

chronic steroid use

chickenpox

Risk factors

Impaired lymphatic drainage due to surgery, nodal dissection, or irradiation.

Diabetes mellitus.

Chronic steroid use.

Peripheral venous catheter.

Varicella infection.

Immunocompromising condition.

Human, animal, or insect bites; skin trauma.

Fungal, bacterial, or mycobacterial skin infections.

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Complications

Lymphangitis can spread quickly, leading to complications such as:

cellulitis, a skin infection.

bacteremia, or bacteria in your blood.

sepsis, a body-wide infection that's life-threatening.

abscess, a painful collection of pus that's usually accompanied by swelling and inflammation.

Prevention

The best way to prevent lymphadenitis is to see your healthcare provider at the first sign of any infection or if you notice a tender swelling that feels like a little lump just beneath your skin. Make sure to cleanse and use antiseptic on any scratches or breaks in your skin and always practice good hygiene.