What is arm lymphangitis?

Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymphatic system. These pathways are responsible for the transport of lymph fluid. While arteries carry the blood from the heart to the organs, arms and legs, the blood is returned via the veins. However, around ten percent of the fluid initially remains in the tissue and is then returned to the heart via the lymphatic system.

If there is an inflammation in these vessels, what is known as lymphangitis develops. Lymphangitis in the arm is when at least one of these lymph vessels, which lead from the arm or the hand back to the heart, is inflamed.

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Read more on the subject at: How dangerous is lymphangitis?


There are several causes that can underlie lymphangitis in the arm. In most cases it is an infection that is in the hand or arm and from there also leads to inflammation of the lymph vessels. Initially, only the soft tissue (skin, subcutaneous fatty tissue, muscles, etc.) is often inflamed. If the infection spreads, blood vessels, nerves and bones can also be affected.

The lymphatic vessels are classically responsible for the removal of the substances that arise in inflammatory reactions. Therefore, when there is inflammation in the hand or arm, a particularly large number of the inflammatory cells and the pathogens being combated collect in the lymph vessels. If the body’s own immune system is insufficient, this can also lead to inflammation of the lymph vessels (Lymphangitis) to lead.

Typically, the injuries are major, for example due to an accident or an injury that becomes infected with bacteria. This leads to pronounced inflammation, possibly with lymphangitis in the arm.

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Injuries caused by (domestic) animals can also be the cause: If an animal is bitten, pathogens from the saliva can get into the wound and lead to an infection with subsequent lymphangitis.

Read more on the subject at: Bite wound

In principle, lymphangitis can also result from other inflammatory processes in the body. For example, autoimmune diseases in which the immune system is directed against the own body also lead to inflammation. However, in this case blood vessels are more often affected and only rarely the lymph vessels are affected by the inflammation.


The diagnosis of lymphangitis can often already be made clinically. The diagnosis is primarily focused on the symptoms and, if applicable, the causes and development of the disease. To do this, you first need a cause of the symptoms such as an open and infected wound.

The lymphangitis then becomes noticeable on the arm through reddening of the lymph vessels under the skin. In contrast to extensive reddening caused by an infection of the soft tissues, the reddening of lymphangitis spreads along the vessels and thus leaves red stripes on the skin that lead from the infected area towards the shoulder.

In the further diagnosis, the infected wound should be examined. For example, you can take a wound swab and identify the pathogens. In this way, targeted therapy against the germs can be initiated. If necessary, further spread diagnostics can also be carried out if, for example, there is a suspicion of additional blood poisoning.

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These symptoms are how I recognize lymphangitis in my arm

Lymphangitis has a particularly classic symptom. The infection spreads along the lymph vessels and leaves red "roads" on the skin. This reddening runs in the form of a strand along the course of the lymphatic vessel. The lymph vessels usually run from the fingers over the hand and forearm towards the shoulder. In lymphangitis, for example, the reddening usually begins near the infected soft tissues, from where it slowly spreads towards the shoulder.

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How quickly it spreads depends in part on the severity of the infection and in part on the speed of lymphatic drainage. In this way, the redness can spread a few centimeters or even the entire arm within a few hours.

As with any inflammation, there are also four other classic inflammation symptoms: these include swelling, overheating, pain and limited functionality of the affected structures.In the case of lymphangitis of the arm, this can lead to a build-up of the lymph fluid, which, for example, can cause the arm or hand to swell due to water retention (Lymphedema).

Read more on this topic at: Lymphedema of the arms

The pain from the inflammation is usually strongest in the infected area itself, but can also spread along the inflamed lymph vessels. In the case of pronounced lymphangitis, systemic symptoms such as fever, fatigue, poor performance and headache can occur. It may also lead to blood poisoning, which in severe cases can lead to circulatory and respiratory problems and a pronounced feeling of illness.

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Pain is one of the five classic inflammation symptoms. Since arm lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymph vessels, it is often associated with pain. For one thing, the pain spreads along the infected lymph vessels. On the other hand, there is usually a portal of entry for the pathogen (often an infected wound), which is also painful.

If complications such as impaired lymphatic drainage occur, the water retention and swelling can also lead to pain. The reason for this can be excessive stretching of the skin or pressure on structures such as muscles, tendons and nerves from the swelling.


Treatment of lymphangitis on the arm is initially aimed at eliminating the cause. Usually this is a soft tissue infection caused by pathogens (mostly bacteria). After a wound swab has been carried out to precisely determine the pathogen, local antibiotic therapy is usually started. Regular cleaning and disinfection of the wound are also of particular importance. Depending on the depth of the wound, a sterile wound dressing should be applied, which is regularly checked and changed.

If the soft tissue inflammation is so severe that it causes lymphangitis in the arm, surgical therapy may also be necessary. The infection and inflammation of the lymph vessels often lead to a collection of pus in the tissue (abscess). This may have to be surgically opened and cleared out (rinsed out with anti-inflammatory agents). Then, depending on its size and depth, the wound is sewn or closed with a sterile wound dressing.

In the case of infected wounds, a so-called secondary wound closure may also be necessary. The wound is first cleaned, but not closed. Then you give the body time to fight the pathogens, if necessary also treat with antibiotics and anti-inflammatory agents and close the wound with a suture a few days later when the inflammation has cured.

If there are additional systemic symptoms such as fever in the context of lymphangitis, you often have to give an antibiotic in tablet form or even via the vein. Antipyretic and pain medication can also be used.

Home remedies

Home remedies that can be used for arm lymphangitis are primarily aimed at relieving symptoms. For example, cooling compresses can be used to relieve symptoms of inflammation in the vessels along the arm. Cool packs or quark or cabbage wraps are suitable for this. In addition, anti-inflammatory oils can be applied to the wraps.

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Read more on the subject at: Quark wrap

In addition, regular cleaning of the causative wounds is part of the therapy. This should be done primarily with clean water and, if necessary, anti-inflammatory rinsing solutions.

Duration and forecast

With lymphangitis on the arm, one must often expect a prolonged course of the disease. In contrast to uncomplicated wounds, the causative injuries are often infected, so that the healing process can take several weeks. The exact duration depends particularly on how quickly and efficiently the pathogens can be fought.

If antibiotics and other anti-infective agents are used to contain the infection quickly, the lymphangitis can heal without consequences. In the case of severe infections, the focus of inflammation may have to be operated on, which can result in soft tissue damage and scarring on the affected area. In particularly severe cases, all infected tissue may need to be removed.

You may also be interested in the following article: The duration of lymphangitis.

Course of disease

The course of the disease usually begins with a wound that becomes infected due to contamination with pathogens (usually bacteria). There will be redness and swelling with pain in the infected area. The pathogens then begin to spread through the lymphatic system.

There they also lead to inflammation (Lymphangitis), so that the lymph vessels also turn red. This is noticeable in the form of red stripes on the skin. If the infection progresses, a systemic inflammatory reaction with fever and malaise can occur at some point. In the worst case, this infection can spread to blood poisoning, which can lead to life-threatening circulatory disorders.

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