Frequently Asked Questions “FAQ”
The following are frequently asked questions about managing lymphedema and lymphatic system disorders. They are by no means complete answers to what are always very complex questions but are meant as a guide. Each individual’s situation is unique and each person should consult with their treatment team for their specific recommendations for their particular case.
“What are the signs of inflammation or infection on my lymphoedematous limb? And how do I know?”
Infection in a lymphoedematous areas can look different in each individual and in each kind of infection. Signs of inflammation, commonly found in the case of lymphangitis, are unusual redness, warmth, blotchy appearance to the skin of the affected area, and sometimes accompanied by a sensation of itching, burning, or pain in the area. Frequently, in case of infection, fever appears, this is known as erysipelas. Regional lymph nodes can be painful and swollen. Some people are nauseous. Sometimes, the inflammatory reaction to a rash or insect bite can precipitate an infection.
“What I do in case of infection or inflammation of the limb with lymphoedema?”
The signs and symptoms of infection (erysipelas) or inflammation (lymphangitis) are not specific. Other pathological conditions can determinate them, or be similar. You can have a red rash from an allergic reaction by dress or by insect bite. You can have nausea and fever from the flu or from a viral or bacterial infection, regardless of your lymphoedematous limb. Sometimes an extensive phlebitis can be similar to a lymphangitis. That is why you should always carefully inspect your involved areas, carefully every day for any signs of breaks in the skin, redness, increased swelling, etc. As soon as you notice something different, call your physician/therapist to discuss it with them.
“What kind of treatment should I take in case of infection or inflammation?”
Drug therapy consists in oral antibiotics and/or steroid. Often physicians give instructions to start therapy without consulting. You should never attempt to “treat” an infection yourself. You should call your physicians to evaluate the “suspicious” area. The reason to have antibiotics on hand is to be able to start them at the first sign of infection, but only after medical consulting. Abuse of antibiotics is dangerous, but under-treating an infection in a Lymphoedematous limb or limb at risk for lymphoedema is also dangerous.