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Health Information Center


  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymph vessels. Lymph vessels are part of the immune system.

Lymphatic Vessels.

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Lymphangitis may be caused by bacteria or fungi. Sometimes it is not caused by an infection.

Bacterial or fungal lymphadenitis usually starts with a skin infection. When the lymph vessels start to carry fluids away from the injury, the bacteria or fungi can move into the lymph vessels and begin to multiply. The growth causes the infection.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of lymphangitis include:

  • Injury to the skin
  • Having a bacterial skin infection


Symptoms may include:

  • Redness or red streaks on the skin
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Warmth at the site of the infection
  • Fever or chills
  • Fluids or pus leaking from the affected area
  • Swollen glands
  • Malaise—general feeling of illness


You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is often made on appearance alone.

Your bodily fluids and tissues may be tested to determine the exact type of bacteria causing the infection. This can be done with:

  • Blood or fluid culture
  • Skin biopsy and cultures


Treatment is important to keep the infection from spreading into the blood.

The doctor may advise medicines such as:

  • Antibiotics to treat infection
  • Over-the-counter medications to reduce swelling and pain

Warm compresses may also be advised to reduce swelling and pain.


Lymphangitis is usually caused by spread from a skin infection. If you have a skin infection, follow your doctor’s treatment plan.

To reduce your risk of getting a skin infection:

  • Keep your skin clean.
  • Keep your fingernails clipped short and clean.
  • Apply lotion to dry skin to prevent drying and cracking.
  • Take steps to avoid injury to the skin:
    • Wear protective gear in sports.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts when hiking.
    • Wear sandals when at the beach, rather than going barefoot.
    • Be careful around animals. Treat pets with respect to avoid bites .
  • Do not swim in natural waters if you have cuts or sores.
  • If a small cut, bite, or other injury occurs:
    • Clean cuts or scrapes with soap and water.
    • Apply antibiotic ointment.
    • Cover with a bandage or dressing.
    • Do not scratch wounds.
    • Call your doctor right away if the area becomes red or swollen.
  • Seek prompt medical care for larger wounds or bites.
  • If your legs tend to swell, elevate them several times a day.




  • Lymphangitis. University of Maryland Medical Center website. Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/ency/articles/lymphangitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.
  • Lymphangitis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/bacterial-skin-infections/lymphangitis. Accessed January 29, 2021.


  • David L. Horn, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.