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Lymphangitis

Inflammation of the lymphatic vessels as a result of a bacterial infection

  • Age, gender, genetics, and lifestyle are not significant factors

Lymphangitis develops when bacteria spread into lymphatic vessels close to the site of an infection, possibly as a result of an injury. The condition usually affects lymphatic vessels in an arm or a leg and may be accompanied by fever, headache, and a general sense of feeling unwell. The infected lymphatic vessels become inflamed and tender, and hot, red streaks may appear on the skin over the inflamed vessels. Lymph nodes near to the affected area sometimes become swollen (see Lymphadenopathy). If you develop any of these symptoms following an injury, you should consult your doctor immediately.

In some cases, ulcers form in the skin over an infected lymph vessel. Without treatment, the infection may spread into the blood (see Septicaemia), which can be life-threatening.

If your doctor suspects that you have lymphangitis from your symptoms and after a physical examination, he or she may take a sample of your blood, which will be tested in a laboratory to determine whether the infection has spread into the blood. Antibiotics will be prescribed to treat the lymphangitis. The symptoms of the condition usually begin to clear up within 24 hours of starting antibiotic treatment.

Lymphangitis of the arm

Inflamed lymphatic vessels (lymphangitis) have produced a red streak on the skin. The inflammation is due to bacteria that have spread from a wound on the finger.

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

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