(See also Overview of Bacterial Skin Infections Overview of Bacterial Skin Infections Bacterial skin infections can be classified as skin and soft tissue infections (SSTI) and acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI). SSTI include Carbuncles Ecthyma Erythrasma... read more and Lymphadenitis Lymphadenitis Lymphadenitis is an acute infection of one or more lymph nodes. Symptoms include pain, tenderness, and lymph node enlargement. Diagnosis is typically clinical. Treatment is usually empiric.... read more .)
Typical causes of lymphangitis include streptococci. Rare causes of lymphangitis include staphylococcal infections, Pasteurella infections, Erysipelothrix, anthrax, herpes simplex infections, lymphogranuloma venereum, rickettsial infections, sporotrichosis, Nocardia infections, leishmaniasis, tularemia, Burkholderia infections, and atypical mycobacterial infections. Pathogens enter the lymphatic channels from an abrasion, wound, or coexisting infection (usually cellulitis). Patients with underlying lymphedema are at particular risk.
Red, irregular, warm, tender streaks develop on an extremity and extend proximally from a peripheral lesion toward regional lymph nodes, which are typically enlarged and tender. Systemic manifestations (eg, fever, shaking chills, tachycardia, headache) may occur and may be more severe than cutaneous findings suggest. Leukocytosis is common. Bacteremia may occur. Rarely, cellulitis with suppuration, necrosis, and ulceration develops along the involved lymph channels as a consequence of primary lymphangitis.
Diagnosis of lymphangitis is clinical. Isolation of the responsible organism is usually unnecessary.
Most cases respond rapidly to antistreptococcal antibiotics (see treatment of cellulitis Treatment Cellulitis is acute bacterial infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue most often caused by streptococci or staphylococci. Symptoms and signs are pain, warmth, rapidly spreading erythema... read more ).
If response to treatment is poor or presentation is unusual, rare pathogens should be considered.