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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 5, 2023.

What is lymphangitis?

Lymphangitis is an infection of the lymph vessels beneath your skin. Lymph vessels are part of your lymph system, which helps fight infection and drains excess fluid from the body. Lymphangitis is caused by a skin infection that spreads to the lymph vessels through a wound in the skin. It often occurs on an arm or leg.

What are the signs and symptoms of lymphangitis?

  • Red streaks from the infected area that spread to a nearby lymph node, such as in your armpit or groin
  • Tenderness, warmth, and swelling of the infected area
  • Swollen or tender lymph nodes
  • Blisters or abscesses (pus-filled wounds) on or near the infection site
  • Fever or chills
  • Muscle aches or a headache
  • Loss of appetite

How is lymphangitis diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your signs and symptoms. Tell him how your skin wound happened. You may also need the following:

  • Blood tests may be used to confirm that you have an infection.
  • A wound or blood culture is a test of fluid or tissue from your wound or blood that is used to find the cause of your infection.

How is lymphangitis treated?

  • Medicines treat the bacteria, fungus, or parasite that caused your infection.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Incision and drainage is a procedure that may be needed to drain pus from any abscesses you have.

How can I manage my lymphangitis?

  • Use hot, moist compresses as directed to help reduce pain.
  • Elevate the infected area above the level of your heart as often as you can. This will help decrease swelling and pain. Prop your arm or leg on pillows or blankets to keep it elevated comfortably.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • Your symptoms do not improve or get worse after treatment.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have a high fever and chills.
  • You cannot think clearly.
  • You have a fast heartbeat.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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