How dangerous is lymphangitis?


Lymphangitis is one Inflammation of the lymphatic vessels. Lymph vessels have the task of transporting fluid out of the tissue. If there is inflammation, for example after an injury, it can spread to the lymph vessels. It comes to one painful, streaky reddening of the skin and maybe swollen lymph nodes.

Lymphangitis is usually triggered by bacteria and treatment is carried out accordingly with antibiotics and disinfecting poultices. In most cases, the disease heals without any consequences. Without treatment consists of dangerthat the Inflammation continues to spread and it to one life-threatening blood poisoning comes.

  • Blood poisoning after an insect bite
  • Symptoms of blood poisoning


How dangerous lymphangitis is depends on various circumstances. If the trigger is an insect bite and there is a slight accompanying reaction, the disease is usually harmless.

Lymphangitis caused by bacteria can develop in different ways. The lymphangitis can usually be treated well with prompt treatment through disinfection and, if necessary, antibiotics. If there is no adequate therapy or, for example, a prescribed antibiotic does not work (for example due to resistant germs in the hospital), the inflammation can also spread to the blood throughout the body. This so-called sepsis or blood poisoning is a possible serious complication of lymphangitis and can be life-threatening.

Especially in people with a weak immune system such as diabetics or the elderly, the risk of sepsis is increased. However, in most cases complete cure can be achieved with antibiotic treatment.


Lymphangitis develops mostly based on an existing infection, for example one inflamed wound on the arm or leg. Bacteria (often so-called streptococci) get from there into the lymph vessels that run towards the middle of the body, where they cause an inflammatory reaction.

Also certain Parasites or fungi can cause lymphangitis. Gardeners and farmers, for example, are at risk of injuring themselves Spirotrichosis to draw. This is an infection with certain fungi from the soil.

Also one Athlete's foot disease can lead to lymphangitis in the leg.

Furthermore, people who suffer from certain diseases have one increased riskto have lymphangitis. These include diabetes and other Diseases that weaken the immune system, for example AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

Even with one long-term therapy with steroid hormones (for example Cortisone) the risk of developing lymphangitis is increased.

In patients who have a chemotherapy get lymphangitis if that Drug accidentally not in the vein but injected into the surrounding tissue has been.

Lymphangitis after an insect bite

Lymphangitis can also occur as a reaction to an insect bite. Usually poisons are transmitted via the insects' saliva, which reach the lymphatic system and trigger an inflammatory reaction there.

Read more on this topic: Inflamed insect bite - when is it dangerous?

In particular with an allergy to the insect venom, there is an excessive reaction of the immune system, which can also include lymphangitis. This is also shown here by a painful red stripe emanating from the causal puncture and running towards the center of the body.

Further information on the topic can be found at: Lymphangitis after an insect bite

Concomitant symptoms

Most of the time, lymphangitis develops into one red stripeswho is in Direction of the center of the body runs. The inflamed lymphatic vessel can sometimes swollen palpable be and feel often warm on. Often it prepares throbbing pain. You can also Lymph nodes swell. This is most likely to be expected in the nearby lymph node regions (for example armpit, groin or neck), but swelling can also occur in more distant areas.

Other accompanying symptoms can be general malaise, a headache and Loss of appetite be. An additional occurrence of fever such as chills is possible. Lymphangitis is a warning sign that germs may have entered the bloodstream are and become one Blood poisoning comes. It should consulted a doctor as soon as possible become. This will draw blood and take it in a timely manner Antibiotic prescribe. The responsible pathogen is grown in the laboratory from the blood drawn and identified. If necessary, you can switch to a more effective antibiotic.


The doctor usually makes the diagnosis on the basis of the physical examination and the medical discussion with the patient (anamnesis). In particular, after a previous injury or one Insect bite asked.

In addition, the affected body region is examined and the responsible one Lymph node region, that is, the next lymph nodes in the direction of the lymph flow enlargement and Tenderness groped.

Possibly the doctor also takes one Sample from an existing woundto have them checked for certain bacteria. If, for example, due to a fever or chills, it is already suspected Pathogens into the bloodstream could have penetrated, a so-called Blood culture be created. To do this, blood is drawn into two special vials and these are examined for the growth of possible bacteria.

When should a doctor be consulted?

Lymphangitis caused by a wound or cut should be examined by a doctor and treated depending on its severity. So who one typical red and painful stripes on the body should be examined and the doctor advised on the procedure.

Particularly urgent is a emergency doctor's visit (for example in the emergency room of the nearest hospital) if there is lymphangitis in addition to Fever and chills comes. Even with one pronounced allergic reaction after an insect bite that leads to shortness of breath or circulatory collapse, it is one medical emergency.

Treatment / therapy

The therapy with lymphangitis depends on the Trigger and severity of the clinical picture. In light cases are basic measures like Immobilization the affected body region as well as treatment with disinfecting dressings and anti-inflammatory drugs sufficient.

At more pronounced inflammation or risk-increasing circumstances (for example if the patient is diabetic) if the lymphangitis is bacterial, a Treatment with antibiotics.

When the trigger is on Focus of infection as a abscess is (purulent tissue inflammation) can also be a surgical treatment to be necessary. For example, a pus cavity is incised, cleaned and emptied under local anesthesia.

When are antibiotics needed?

Since lymphangitis is mostly caused by bacteria, treatment with antibiotics is often necessary. If the symptoms are mild, treatment by immobilization and anti-inflammatory agents alone can be tried initially. However, if this does not lead to healing or deterioration, an antibiotic should be taken in addition to these basic measures.

The doctor assesses the severity of the lymphangitis and also takes into account the patient's circumstances such as age and other illnesses when recommending therapy. If he prescribes an antibiotic, it is usually in tablet form.


Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymph vessels. These are usually affected when there is an infection in a specific region or the entire body. The result is swelling of the lymph nodes. If the pathogens spread throughout the body, serious complications as a result of blood poisoning can occur, many organs fail, and in the worst case lymphangitis is fatal.

Blood poisoning (sepsis)

In blood poisoning (sepsis), pathogens spread throughout the body via the blood. As a rule, the germs that trigger it are bacteria of various types. These usually enter the body through a portal of entry (wound, pneumonia, intestinal injury). If they cannot be fought adequately by the immune system in the local area, they get into the blood and spread throughout the body.
The lymph vessels are also affected by the inflammation, as the immune system is started everywhere in the body. Lymphangitis and dysregulation of the immune response develop. The result is a high fever, chills and possibly multiple organs failing.

Read more on the topic: Blood poisoning


How long a lymphangitis lasts cannot be answered in general. A slight inflammatory reaction due to an insect bite usually disappears after a few hours to days. In the case of a bacterial infection caused by an inflamed wound or a cut, the duration of the lymphangitis depends on the strength of the immune system and the therapeutic measures taken. With appropriate treatment, the disease usually heals without consequences in a few weeks.

In the case of insufficient treatment or frequently recurring lymphangitis, however, a chronic course with lymphedema can also occur. There is a disruption of the drainage of the tissue fluid due to the impaired lymphatic system. There may be severe swelling in the affected area of ​​the body. Timely and appropriate treatment of lymphangitis is important to prevent such consequences.

Also read the following article: The duration of lymphangitis.

According to location

Lymphangitis on the arm

Arm lymphangitis can result from an inflamed wound on the hand or arm. The typically striped inflamed lymphatic tracts usually run in the direction of the nearest lymph nodes. In the case of an infection on the upper arm, i.e. in the direction of the armpit (Read about this: Swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit).

Arm lymphangitis should be examined by a doctor and treated according to his or her assessment. In the case of a severe infection that is worth treating and that is not treated, consequential damage can otherwise occur, for example due to impaired lymph drainage, which leads to swelling of the arm (lymphedema).

Read more on the subject at: Lymphangitis in the arm

Lymphangitis on the leg

If a wound on the foot or leg becomes infected, lymphangitis can develop there too. The inflamed lymph channels often run in the direction of the next lymph nodes in the corresponding groin region (Read about this: Swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin).

Another possible cause of lymphangitis on the leg is athlete's foot. Especially in people with impaired blood flow in the legs, such as weak veins or hardened arteries, as well as diabetics, the risk is increased.

Anyone who has lymphangitis on the leg should definitely be examined by a doctor and treated appropriately. Otherwise, lymph drainage disorders can occur, especially in the leg, and swelling can often no longer be reduced.

Lymphangitis on the neck

Lymphangitis of the neck can result from an inflamed wound on the head. A purulent inflamed hair root (boil) can also be responsible for the painful red stripes that run towards the heart. Even if you can't find a causal inflammation on the head or neck, you should consult a doctor to be sure.

Infections in the head area, especially in the face, always harbor the risk of spreading via blood vessels to the meninges or the brain, so that a medical examination and appropriate treatment should always be carried out.

Mesenteric lymphangitis

Inflammation of a certain area of ​​the intestine can also lead to inflammation of the lymph vessels and lymph nodes in the abdomen. One speaks of a Mesenteric lymphadenitis (that is, inflammation of the lymph nodes in the abdomen). The designation Mesenteric lymphangitis is not common, although the lymphatics may be affected.

The disease occurs mainly in children and is mostly caused by certain bacteria (Yersinia enterocolitica). However, it can also arise from a viral infection. The symptoms are similar to those of appendicitis (appendicitis). There is pain in the right lower abdomen and a fever. That is why one speaks of one Pseudoappendicitis. Other synonyms of the disease are Brenneman syndrome, Mesenteric lymphadenitis as well as Maßhoff's disease.

In contrast to appendicitis, the Mesenteric lymphadenitis however, no special therapy is necessary because the disease heals by itself. However, if you have symptoms, you should definitely consult a doctor, as laypeople cannot differentiate it from correct appendicitis. If left untreated, this can be life-threatening.

How dangerous is lymphangitis on the foot?

Lymphangitis on the foot is initially a localized inflammation. If it is combated and treated in good time (usually antibiotic therapy against the underlying bacterial infection), lymphangitis is not a serious disease.
However, if the infection does spread, it can cause serious complications such as blood poisoning. Damage to the lymph vessels and thus a reduction in lymph drainage on the foot can also result.