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Definition Return to top
Lymphangitis is an infection of the lymph vessels (channels). It is a common complication of certain bacterial infections.
See also: Lymphadenitis
Causes Return to top
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 most often results from an acute streptococcal infection of the skin. Less frequently it results from a staphylococcal infection. The infection causes the lymph vessels to become inflamed.
Lymphangitis may be a sign that a skin infection is getting worse. It should raise concerns that bacteria may spread into the bloodstream, which can cause life-threatening problems.
Lymphangitis may be confused with a clot in a vein (thrombophlebitis).
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
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.
Treatment Return to top
Lymphangitis may spread within hours. Treatment should begin promptly.
Treatment may include:
Surgery may be needed to drain any abscess.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
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.
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your health care provider or go to the emergency room if you have symptoms of lymphangitis.
References Return to topStevens DL. Streptococcal infections. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier. 2007: chap 312. Update Date: 5/30/2009 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.