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Lymphangitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt (Vietnamese)


What is lymphangitis?

Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymphatic system, which is a major component of your immune system.

Your lymphatic system is a network of organs, cells, ducts, and glands. The glands are also called nodes and can be found throughout your body. They are most apparent under your jaw, in your armpits, and in your groin.

Organs that make up the lymphatic system include your:

  • Tonsils, which are located in your throat
  • Spleen, an organ in your abdomen that purifies your blood, among other functions
  • Thymus, an organ in your upper chest that helps white blood cells develop

Immune cells called lymphocytes mature within your bone marrow and then travel to your lymph nodes and other organs within the lymphatic system to help protect your body against viruses and bacteria. The lymphatic system also filters a whitish-clear fluid called lymph, which contains bacteria-killing white blood cells.

Lymph travels through your body along lymphatic vessels and collects fats, bacteria, and other waste products from cells and tissues. Your lymph nodes then filter these harmful materials out of the fluid and produce more white blood cells to fight off the infection.

Lymphangitis is sometimes incorrectly called blood poisoning. It’s also sometimes mistaken for thrombophlebitis, which is a clot in a vein.

How common is lymphangitis?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of lymphangitis?

Red streaks often trace the surface of the skin from the infected area to the nearest lymph gland. They may be faint or very visible and tender to the touch. They may extend from a wound or cut. In some cases, the streaks may blister.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Fever
  • Malaise, or a general ill feeling
  • Loss of appetite
  • Headache
  • Aching muscles

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes lymphangitis?

Infectious lymphangitis occurs when bacteria or viruses enter the lymphatic channels. They may enter through a cut or wound, or they may grow from an existing infection.

The most common infectious cause of lymphangitis is acute streptococcal infection. It may also be the result of a staphylococcal (staph) infection. Both of these are bacterial infections.

Lymphangitis may occur if you already have a skin infection and it’s getting worse. This might mean that bacteria will soon enter your bloodstream. Complications such as sepsis, a life-threatening condition of body-wide inflammation, can occur as a result.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for lymphangitis?

There are many risk factors for lymphangitis, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Immunodeficiency, or loss of immune function
  • Chronic steroid use
  • Chickenpox

A cat or dog bite or a wound made in fresh water can also become infected and lead to lymphangitis. Gardeners and farmers may develop the condition if they get sporotrichosis, a soil-borne fungal infection.

There are also noninfectious causes of lymphangitis. Inflammation of lymph vessels can occur due to malignancy: Breast, lung, stomach, pancreas, rectal, and prostate cancers are common types of tumors that can lead to lymphangitis. Lymphangitis has also been seen in those with Crohn’s disease.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is lymphangitis diagnosed?

To diagnose lymphangitis, your doctor will perform a physical exam. They’ll feel your lymph nodes to check for swelling.

Your doctor may also order tests such as a biopsy to reveal the cause of the swelling or a blood culture to see if the infection is present in your blood.

How is lymphangitis treated?

Lymphangitis treatment is dependent on the underlying reason for the infection. Treatment usually includes rest, warm compresses, elevation, antibiotics as well as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication or NSAIDs for pain.

Options for treatment for lymphangitis might include:

  • Rest
  • Compresses that are warm
  • Elevation of area that is affected
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain:
    • Ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin, NeoProfen, Advil)
    • Ketoprofen (Orudis, Actron, Oruvail)
    • Naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve, Aanaprox)
  • Pain medication narcotic:
    • For moderate to severe pain
    • For use short term only
  • Antibiotic therapy:
    • Dicloxacillin
    • Cephalexin (Keflex)
    • Nafcillin
    • Cefuroxime (Zinacef)
    • Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
    • Trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMZ, Bactrim, Septra)
    • Clindamycin (Cleocin)

Surgery for lymphangitis

Aspiration by needle for lymphangitis:

  • Removing fluid that is infected from an abscess by a needle.

Drainage and incision for lymphangitis:

  • Making an incision thru the skin, in order to drain an abscess.

Incision and drainage:

  • Skin is sterilized using antibacterial soap or rubbing alcohol.
  • A local anesthetic is injected in the tissues that surround the abscess.
  • An incision is then performed by a scalpel.
  • Abscess is drained of pus.
  • Abscess cavity is cleanly flushed.
  • In certain cases, a strip of sterile gauze or a rubber drain is packed in the cavity of the abscess.
  • The drain or gauze is put inside the cavity usually removed in 24-36 hours.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage lymphangitis? If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

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