One of the many hazards of lymphedema is indisputably infections. The human body is shielded by an acid-mantle that appears as a fine layer of skin. If that layer of skin is damaged or broken, it permits bacteria to get into the body causing an infection. This causes the immune system to become defective and incapable of carrying out at the intensity that it should. Therefore, circulation inside the distressed limb is also weakened, adding further complications. In addition, the inflamed area has build-up protein and waste material creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and lymphedema infection.
Why Lymphedema Patients are at an Increased risk for Infection
There are a variety of reasons why lymphedema patients are more prone to infections. The skin in lymphedema is inclined to be scaly and dry, fueling a disorder of the protective acid-layer, or if expanded skin-folds are present, dampness accumulated in these folds can develop into a breeding ground for bacteria. Because of the swelling, even in minor lymphedema, the natural defense cells of the body may be too ineffective in fighting off invaders adequately.
The preliminary onset of lymphedema, including the deterioration of current lymphedema, is often linked with the incidence of infections. It is believed that the outcome of these infections is enlarged fibrosis of lymph-vessels and lymph-nodes creating more distress for the lymphedema sufferer.
Common Lymphedema Infections:
This serious infection of the deeper tissues and skin is identified by agonizing swelling, skin redness, and heat. Cellulitis is often the outcome of the streptococcus bacteria that gains entrance to the tissues via cuts, breaks, or abrasions of the skin. These bacteria live in the normal skin-flora but are not capable of causing infection on the skins external surface. Cellulitis becomes life threatening when it multiplies by way of the blood or lymphatic system to crucial organs and additional body parts.
Erysipelas is caused by the streptococcus bacteria and disturbs the tissue and skin situated just below the skin including the nodes, vessels, and lymphatic system. This type of lymphedema infection is one of the most common and has a tendency to recur. Characteristics of this infection is its speedy onslaught together with fiery-red edema with elevated, clear borders in the affected region, and the swift dispersal through superficial lymph-vessels that contribute to the configuration of fibrosis in the affected tissues. Distinctive signs include redness, headache, fever, swelling, and sometimes chills and vomiting.
The lymphangitis infection frequently comes from an intense streptococcal-infection of the skin that is frequently linked to cellulitis. Infrequently it results from staphylococcal infections. Lymphangitis can spread to the blood-stream and develop into a possible life threatening situation. Symptoms include enlarged lymph nodes, headache, pain, fever, and red-streaks from the infected region to the groin or armpit.
What Should be done in Case of Infection?
Individuals should not wait or ignore any signs of infection. Immediate medical treatment should be sought in order to thwart any further complications, especially individuals prone to lymphedema.
Antibiotics are dispensed as quickly as possible. Penicillin designed medications are given orally if there is no systemic-infection present, or by an intra-venous drip. Oral penicillin is given for at least two-weeks, or until the inflammation has subsided. Some patients may need further treatment in order for symptoms to heal completely. Additional antibiotics used when patients might be allergic to penicillin are claritromycin or clindamycin. In acute situations, hospitalization may be required.