Lymphangitis

The lymphatic system is a part of the immune system. It helps fight against infection and inflammation. It consists of lymph glands (lymph nodes) throughout the body. Lymph channels carry lymph fluid from parts of the body to nearby lymph glands to be filtered.

Front view of male outline showing lymphatic system.

Lymphangitis is an inflammation of lymph channels. It's caused by infected lymph fluid traveling from a site of infection. Or it's from a break in the skin where germs were able to enter. Symptoms are tender, red streaks on the skin. These are often on the legs or arms. They often start near the area of infection or the entry point for the germs. Sometimes the red streaks are only on the upper leg or upper arm, many inches from where the infection started. The spot where the infection started may not be obvious.

The condition can become very serious if not treated. Any apparent infection and the lymphangitis are treated with antibiotics. If you have an abscess, it may be drained.

Home care

  • Take all medicine to treat the infection exactly as prescribed until it's gone. Be very careful not to miss any doses. If you miss a dose, call your provider. Don't stop taking the medicine until it's finished or your healthcare provider tells you to stop, even if you feel better.

  • Follow your healthcare provider's instructions for taking other medicines. Ask your healthcare provider before taking any over-the-counter medicines.

  • Make a warm compress by running hot water over a face cloth. Apply it to the sore area until the compress cools off. Repeat 4 to 6 times a day for the first 3 days. The heat will increase the blood flow to the area and speed the healing process. You can also stand in the shower and direct the warm spray to the area.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as directed.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider if any of the following occur:

  • Increasing areas of redness or pain at the site of infection

  • Red streaks continue to grow

  • Pus or fluid draining from the lymph node

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider.

  • You have new symptoms

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