What is Lymphangitis?

Lymphangitis is an infection caused due to bacteria named Streptococcus pyrogens.

Although very rare, sometimes it’s also caused due to Streptococcal infection. There is an inflammation of the lymphatic channels. The lymphatic channel is a vital component of our body’s immune system and it comprises of a network of several glands, cells, ducts and even organs.

Lymphangitis Causes, Triggers and Risk Factors

Streptococcus bacteria generally enter the body’s lymphatic system either through neglected open wounds, scratches on the skin, wounds from surgery or insect bites. They may also develop from a pre-existing wound. As a consequence, red streaks appear on the affected part of the skin. This creates a condition where the body’s immune system fails to cope up and fight back with the fast-growing bacteria. The fast-growing bacteria now gradually spread itself from the infected parts of the body, such as legs or hands towards the lymph nodes (armpits, groin or the portion under the jaw). It is a sign that the existing skin infection is taking a worse shape and need to be attended immediately.

In severe conditions, this can even become life-threatening. However, if a person is diagnosed with it in the preliminary stage, it is curable and leaves behind almost zero ill effects. But if not, it can have fatal effects. Often, there form cavities which are painful and filled with pus. People sometimes get more affected by it from developing it via others. Many women who have had their breasts wholly or partly removed through surgery run the risk of developing this disease. Also, persons who had to go through the removal of a leg vein to have coronary bypass surgeries are prone to this kind of disease.

Sometimes farmers or gardeners can get affected by this through soil-borne fungal infections. Non-infectious sources of Lymphangitis include prostate, rectal, lung cancers which are tumors that can lead to it. In addition to these, people with Crohn’s disease can also be harmed.

Lymphangitis Symptoms

Other than the red streaks and blisters, there are some more symptoms of this disease which are as follows:-

  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Liner red streaks from the place of infection towards the lymph node
  • Fever
  • Reddening of the skin (chest, face, hand, leg, back etc)
  • Warming of the skin
  • A headache
  • Rashes on the skin
  • Puking tendency
  • Loss of appetite
  • Malaise
  • Chills

Conditions that might worsen Lymphangitis

In case someone is already suffering from any of the following diseases, the risk in Lymphangitis would increase.

  • Loss of immune functions
  • Chickenpox
  • Diabetes
  • Use of steroid chronically

Lymphangitis Differential Diagnosis

This particular disease cannot be detected unless a physical test is done. However, the doctors can say from the inflammations of the lymph nodes, open wounds, and red streaks. For further confirmation, they suggest a biopsy or blood culture test to check if the infection has spread to the bloodstream.

How complicated can this get?

As this condition directly attacks and sloths the immune system, critical conditions might take forms from this which includes:

  • Presence of bacteria in blood
  • An infection not only harming the affected organs but also your entire body, Sepsis.
  • Abscess, which is accumulation of pus that is frequently very painful and leads to swelling
  • Cellulitis
  • Fistulas
  • Oozing out of the pus from lymph nodes
  • Constant fever over 101 degrees
  • Increasing redness of the skin
  • Spreading of the red streaks

Lymphangitis Treatment

Since the disease spreads rapidly weakening your entire immune system, there is not really any possible way to prevent it. As fast as you consult a doctor, more are your chance for revival. Nonetheless, the recovery time depends majorly on the cause and how fast it has been confirmed.

1. Healing through antibiotics include

  • Nafcillin
  • Dicloxacillin
  • Cefuroxime
  • Clindamycin
  • Cephalexin
  • Oxacillin
  • Trimethoprim

2. Medicines for pain that are non-steroids and reduce inflammation

  • Naproxen
  • Ketoprofen
  • Ibuprofen

3. Using narcotics for pain

This process can either for the pain that is moderate to severe or for short-term use.

4. Surgical methods

In extreme cases, the accumulated pus can be drawn out using a syringe. Or, an incision is made on the skin for oozing out of the infected fluid. A sterilized scalpel must be used for making the incision. After complete ooze out of the pus, the portion should be properly cleaned. Then sterilized gauze is used to cover the open wound. It can be removed after a day or two.

What to do during the treatment

The infected area should be kept at an elevated position to reduce swelling and slow down the infection from spreading. At home, take hot compresses to ease down the pain. Repeat this technique multiple times every day for at least twenty to thirty minutes. You can also wet a soft piece of cloth in warm water and keep it in the areas of inflammation. Hot showers can also be taken. It will aid in healing and increase the blood flow. But make sure that the cloth has not soaked water that is too hot as that may lead to further complications.

You can get relief from moderate pain by intake of doses of Advil or Tylenol. Do not forget to consult your doctor before using any drugs and especially if you are already suffering from any other disease.  The medication should be taken seriously. Do not skip or take an overdose of the prescribed medicines. It can cause adverse effects in both the cases. Do not get worried by some side effects that the medicines might cause.

What not to do

You should completely abstain from alcohol while under medication.

Lymphangitis Prognosis

Generally, long-term use of antibiotics leads to a complete recovery. But the swelling might take a longer period to disappear entirely.

Lymphangitis Prevention

Maintain a proper hygiene, leave open wounds and visit the nearby doctor as soon as the symptoms start matching.

Lymphangitis in children

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be given to children only if prescribed by a doctor. In general, for relief from pain and fever Ibuprofen, Acetaminophen or Naproxen can be given.

Medical Reference:

Last updated on October 23rd, 2018 at 8:10 am

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