Jun 16, 2008

Lymphadema and Infections

Skin infections are something that people with Lymphadema deal with on a regular basis. Here is a good article with information about infections, and especially cellulitis which can become life threatening if left untreated.

Infections that can develop within the affected tissues are a serious complication associated with lymphedema. The risk of infection increases when lymphedema is not controlled by proper treatment and appropriate precautions.

The risks of lymphedema related infections are due to:

  • The swelling of lymphedema compromises the health of the skin.
  • Protein-rich stagnant lymph within these swollen tissues creates an environment that pathogens love!
  • The deep skin folds resulting from the lymphedema are an ideal breeding ground for fungal infections.


Cellulitis (sell-you-LYE-tis) is an infection that spreads freely, and quickly within the deeper tissues of the skin. Cellulitis becomes a life-threatening emergency when it spreads through the lymphatic or circulatory systems and can reach vital organs and other body parts.

Cellulitis is usually caused by the bacteria staphylococcus aureus that normally live on the skin. Any break in the skin, no matter how small, provides an opening for them to march in, multiply, and thrive. Even a simple act such as shaving a swollen leg could be an invitation to infection.

Symptoms of Cellulitis

  • Malaise (a general sense of not feeling well)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Chills and fever
  • Discoloration (redness, or streaky red lines)
  • Rash
  • Tissues that feel hot and tender
  • Sudden swelling
  • Itching
  • Pain

This type of infection requires prompt treatment with antibiotics. See a Physician immediately if you think you may have a Cellulitis infection in a Lymphatic limb!!

Sonja M. Maul PT, CLT-LANA

No comments: