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7th July, 20212 min read

What is ascending lymphangitis?

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Dr Adiele Hoffman
Last reviewed: 08/07/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

What is ascending lymphangitis?

Your lymphatic system helps your body fight infections. It’s made up of organs, glands and tubes (called lymphatic vessels), which help transport lymph fluid (which contains infection-fighting cells) around your body.

Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymphatic vessels, and it’s usually caused by bacteria entering these tubes – usually through a wound in your skin (like a cut or a bite). It’s called ascending because it usually spreads or ‘ascends’ along the lymphatic vessels and into the nearest gland.

Some underlying medical problems like diabetes and having a weakened immune system can increase your risk of getting ascending lymphangitis.

What are the symptoms of ascending lymphangitis?

If you have ascending lymphangitis, you’ll usually see red streaks that spread from a small cut or bite up your arm or leg. They can be sore and feel warm. The streaks will usually go to the nearest gland (lymph node) which can feel like a painful lump – often in your armpit or groin.

You may also feel unwell with a fever, chills and a headache. Less commonly the redness can spread to the surrounding skin and cause a skin infection called cellulitis.

It can also cause sepsis.

How is ascending lymphangitis treated?

Ascending lymphangitis usually gets better with antibiotic treatment. You may also need painkillers to relieve any pain or a fever. Rarely, if you have a collection of pus (an abscess), you may need surgery.

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