Lymphangitis: What is it? Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Types, Treatment and Complications

It is the inflammation of the lymphatic system, which is an integral part of the immune system.

The lymphatic system consists of organs, cells, ducts, and glands or “nodules” found throughout the body but is more evident under the jaw, armpits, and groin.

The local inflammation of the lymphatic vessels can be acute or chronic.

Lymphatic system

The organs that make up the lymphatic system include:

  • Bone marrow.
  • Base.
  • Thymus (a small organ located in the upper part of the thorax that helps develop white blood cells).

Immune cells called lymphocytes mature inside the bone marrow and then travel to the lymph nodes and other organs within the lymphatic system to help protect the body against viruses and bacteria.

The lymphatic system also filters a whitish fluid called lymph, which contains white blood cells that kill bacteria.

The lymph travels through the body along the lymphatic vessels or channels and collects fats, bacteria, and other waste products from cells and tissues.


The lymph nodes then filter out these harmful materials from the lymph and produce more white blood cells to fight infections.

Lymphangitis occurs when viruses and bacteria infect the lymphatic system channels, usually through a cut or wound that has become infected.

Often there will be red and soft streaks that go from the wound to the nearest lymphatic glands.

Other symptoms include fever, chills, and a general feeling of discomfort.

If treated quickly, lymphangitis often goes away without harmful effects.

If left untreated, complications can occur, and the condition can be severe.

Lymphangitis is sometimes mistakenly called ” blood poisoning, “and sometimes it is mistaken for thrombophlebitis, the presence of a clot in a vein.

Causes of lymphangitis

Lymphangitis occurs when bacteria or viruses enter the lymphatic channels.

They can enter through a cut or wound or grow from an existing infection.

This inflation usually occurs by an acute and sudden infection of streptococci or staphylococci.

Both conditions are caused by bacteria.

Lymphangitis can occur if a pre-existing infection of the skin worsens.

This could mean that the bacteria will soon enter the bloodstream.

This can cause complications such as sepsis, a potentially fatal condition of inflammation throughout the body.

Another cause of lymphangitis is the compression of the lymphatic vessels by the presence of a tumor.

Risk factor’s

  • When the patient suffers from diabetes mellitus.
  • The chronic use of steroids.
  • A prolonged time with a peripheral venous catheter.
  • Infection caused by varicella.
  • Immunocompromised patients.
  • Bites of humans, animals, or insects.
  • Fungal-type skin infections.
  • The presence of any skin trauma.
  • Chronic use of steroids

Children with systemic diseases are more likely to develop severe lymphangitis.

Gardeners and farmers can develop the condition if they contract sporotrichosis, a fungal infection transmitted by pathogens present in the soil.


  • The presence of macular linear red stripes often traces the skin’s surface from the infected area to the nearest lymphatic gland.
  • They may be weak or obvious and sensitive to touch.
  • They can extend from a wound or cut. In some cases, the streaks may form blisters.

Other symptoms include:

  • The presence of colds.
  • The lymphatic glands become inflamed.
  • Presence of fever and chills.
  • The sensation of general discomforts.
  • The loss of appetite
  • The headaches.
  • Muscular pains
  • Sensitivity and heat on the affected skin.
  • Loss of appetite

The symptoms are severe if the patient presents:

  • High fever.
  • Rigor.
  • Systemic toxicity.
  • Altered mental state

Diagnosis of lymphangitis

The doctor will perform a physical examination, where the lymph nodes will be palpated to verify the swelling, abscesses or skin trauma, cutting, abrasion, or fungal infection.

The doctor can also order various diagnostic and interpretation tests such as:

  • A biopsy to reveal the cause of the swelling.
  • Blood culture to verify if the infection has been transferred to the blood.
  • A complete blood count can show the presence of leukocytosis.
  • Aspiration and culture of any exudate or pus guide any treatment with antibiotics.

The commonly associated conditions are:

  • Lymphedema .
  • Lymph node dissection.
  • Athlete’s foot.
  • Sporotrichosis.
  • Cellulitis .
  • Erysipelas often coexists with this inflammation.
  • Lymphatic filariasis or elephantiasis.
  • Septic thrombophlebitis.
  • Superficial thrombophlebitis, in this case, induration, is felt on the vein.
  • Contact dermatitis.
  • Allergic reactions.


There are two types of lymphangitis:

Acute lymphangitis

  • Reticular: edema in the form of a grid filled with white blood cells, a kind of red cord is observed, hardened and painful, causing hyperthermia in the affected area. There are no signs of fever.
  • Troncular: this type of lymphangitis is reticular but associated with signs such as fever (40 ° C) with malaise. Complications such as abscesses, bursitis, and lymphedema may arise.
  • Deep: this is the weirdest way—signs such as fever and the peculiarity that the pain is exacerbated when the palpation is performed.

Chronic lymphangitis

It is produced by external agents such as parasites or viruses.

The lymphatic walls swell, occupying the entire orifice of the vessel.

The symptoms will vary depending on the causative agent of lymphangitis.

Among these are those caused by parasites and other agents that cause underlying diseases.


Acute lymphangitis

The treatment of acute lymphangitis consists of rest, immobilization of the affected limb, and medications such as anti-inflammatory and anti-edema; heparin is also recommended to prevent possible complications.

Often surgery is not needed except for certain complications.

Chronic lymphangitis

When it comes to this type of lymphangitis, the treatment is directed to the pathogen that causes it and is accompanied by rehabilitation therapy.

Also, in this case, the surgical treatment is directed to secondary manifestations.

The treatment must begin immediately to prevent the disease from spreading and consists of:

  • Oral antibiotics to treat infection such as Dicloxacillin, Nafcillin, Cephalexin, and Clindamycin if you are allergic to penicillin or cephalosporin.
  • Pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce swelling.
  • Surgery to drain any abscess that may have formed.
  • Intravenous antimicrobial therapy, such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.

It can help to heal and relieve pain by applying warm compresses.

Pour hot water over a cloth or towel, use it on the sensitive area, and apply it three times daily.

The heat will promote blood flow and stimulate healing.

You can also take a warm shower and place the shower head over the infected area.

If possible, keep the infected area elevated.

This helps reduce swelling and slows down the spread of the infection.

Complications of lymphangitis

Lymphangitis can spread rapidly, leading to complications such as:

  • Cellulitis (a skin infection)
  • Bacteremia (bacteria in the blood).
  • Sepsis (body inflammation)
  • Abscesses (painful accumulation of pus, usually with swelling and inflammation).

If bacteria enter the bloodstream, the condition can lead to death.