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Lymphangitis: Overview and More

Lymphangitis occurs when the lymphatic system, which is a part of the immune system, becomes inflamed. Lymphangitis is an infection or inflammation of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a crucial part of the immune system. It is designed to collect fluids from cells and tissues in the body and help them re-enter the bloodstream.The organs

  • Posted on 24th May, 2022 21:35 PM
Lymphangitis: Overview and More Image

Lymphangitis is an infection or inflammation of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a crucial part of the immune system. It is designed to collect fluids from cells and tissues in the body and help them re-enter the bloodstream.

The organs within the lymphatic system, such as the bone marrow, spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, tonsils, and lymphatic vessels, help to create and store lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that play a role in immunity. The system also aids in sending the white blood cells where they need to go in the body to fight off infection.

When an infection infiltrates the lymphatic system, lymphangitis develops and can cause a host of different symptoms. This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatments of lymphangitis.

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Symptoms of Lymphangitis

When someone develops lymphangitis, they can experience a variety of different symptoms, including:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes, typically in the groin, armpit, or elbow area, which feel tender to the touch 
  • Malaise, or a general feeling of being unwell
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headaches
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain that throbs in the affected area
  • Muscle aches
  • Red streaks or stripes in the skin that start at the affected area and run along the body to the armpit or groin

In some cases, nodes that are affected by the infection can develop into skin ulcers that burst open like blisters.

Complications of Lymphangitis

In some cases, complications can occur when someone has lymphangitis, such as infection of the skin, abscesses, or bloodstream (sepsis).


The main cause of lymphangitis is a bacterial infection. However, it can also be caused by a parasitic infection. In some cases, it can develop without the presence of any infection at all.

The most common bacteria associated with the condition is group A streptococci.  

While bacteria is mostly associated with lymphangitis, fungal infections can also lead to the condition. That said, fungal-driven lymphangitis is most commonly found in gardeners because the specific fungus that causes the condition is found in soil.

Because animals and insects can carry certain types of bacteria that can cause lymphangitis, getting scratched or bitten by a cat, dog, or tick with a bacterial infection can also cause the condition to develop.

Other possible causes of lymphangitis include:

  • Viral infections, such as an infection with the herpes simplex virus
  • Vaccinations
  • Tuberculosis testing that is conducted by injecting a tuberculosis antigen underneath the skin
  • Wart treatment with cantharidin, which is a substance derived from a green blister beetle

Other Non-Infectious Causes of Lymphangitis

While it is more common to develop the condition because of an infection, in some cases, lymphangitis can be brought on by a disease such as cancer, which is a secondary health consequence of the disease. Lymphangitis can also develop more often in people with Crohn’s disease.


When lymphangitis is suspected, your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and collect a medical history. The physical exam allows them to see skin symptoms and feel the affected lymph nodes to check for swelling or injury.

Your health history is also important in the event that you have lymphangitis caused by a non-infectious disease.

Since infection is the most likely cause, you will have to undergo a blood test to determine what type of infectious pathogen is causing it so that it can be treated appropriately.

A biopsy of the affected area may also be taken to determine the cause.


Treatment for lymphangitis will depend on the cause.

If a bacterial infection is to blame, antibiotics will be required. Depending on the severity, antibiotics can be administered orally or through an intravenous injection directly into the bloodstream.

Since pain can be a symptom of lymphangitis, some people may be given pain relievers to help while the infection is being treated. Anti-inflammatories will also be used because one of the trademark effects of the infection is swelling and inflammation of the lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes.

If a person develops an abscess (a collection of pus) from the lesions that develop, surgery may be performed to drain the pus from the abscess. Lesions that develop on the skin may also be treated using potassium iodide.

Alternative Treatment Options for Lymphangitis

Since there are various causes of lymphangitis, other treatment options may include:

  • Antifungals if the condition is driven by a fungal infection
  • Complete removal of nodes
  • Treatment of any underlying health condition that is causing it


Typically, the outlook for people with lymphangitis is good because treatment can clear the body of the infection. Once that happens, the affected area begins to heal.

While complete recovery is typical for people who develop the condition, they could experience swelling in the nodes or affected areas of the body for months following treatment.

Why Prompt Treatment Is Important for Recovery

It's worth noting that the best possible outcome occurs when treatment is sought as early as possible. Without treatment, life-threatening complications, such as sepsis, can arise. These complications are rare, however, and typically only occur if a person has waited too long to get treated.


Lymphangitis is infection or inflammation of the lymphatic system, mainly the lymphatic vessels. The condition is most notably caused by a bacterial infection. However, it can also develop because of an underlying health condition, a parasitic or fungal infection, or viral infections.

Treatment is highly dependent on the cause. Typically, a healthcare provider can diagnose a person with lymphangitis simply by examining their nodes and affected areas. However, they tend to conduct blood tests or biopsies to confirm the cause to determine the best treatment.

People who develop lymphangitis can experience more severe health consequences, such as a skin or blood infection. However, total recovery is entirely possible after prompt and effective treatment.

A Word From Verywell

Having lymphangitis can be a painful and unsettling experience. Fortunately, with prompt treatment, it doesn’t typically affect your health severely. Getting treatment often leads to a full recovery. If you do have lymphangitis and are still coping with symptoms while you undergo treatment, over-the-counter pain relievers can help ease your pain while your body heals.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is lymphangitis an emergency?

    Lymphangitis can spread quickly, so it’s important to see a healthcare provider as soon as you notice symptoms. While not all people will experience severe health consequences, there is the chance that it develops into something life-threatening, such as sepsis.

  • What does lymphangitis look like?

    Lymphangitis causes small red streaks that run from the affected area into the armpit or groin area. These lines can be faint or obvious. In more severe cases, large abscesses or lesions may form on the skin.

  • How quickly does lymphangitis spread?

    Lymphangitis moves quickly within the body. It’s thought that in less than a day, the infection can spread from the initial infection site to various other areas of the lymphatic system. Prompt treatment can stop this spread from happening.

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