Cellulitis is one of the complications that a lymphedema patient goes through at some point in time. The causes to trigger cellulitis can be numerous, ranging from a simple cut, a bruise to an insect bite or even a scratch. It is the worst experience for a person suffering from lymphedema and it may have to be dealt with a strong dosage of antibiotics or a hospital stay. If the symptoms are ignored and the cellulitis left untreated, it could lead to serious complications.
The first signs that the person might observe is an increasing pain in the lymphedema limb or a different kind of pain and discomfort that may feel like flu. There may be red patches on the skin or blotches and streaks and the skin would feel warm to the touch. The redness of the skin is termed as erythema and the warm or hot sensations are called hyperthermia. There may be chills and the patient may also run a high fever. Other symptoms like swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, irritability, loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting may also be present.
It is advisable to consult a doctor at the very first signs of cellulitis. Treatment for cellulitis lymphedema consists of a 10-day course of antibiotics and most often, the patient will make a complete recovery. However, if you are undergoing therapy for lymphedema, you must avoid it till the cellulitis clears up. You should not use any compression garment or perform manual lymph drainage during this period. The affected limb must be kept elevated as much as possible.
For lymphedema patients it is essential to avoid getting cellulitis as it damages the lymphatic system even more. Left untreated the infection can spread and may even result in gangrene or amputation of the limb and in extreme cases, death. So how can cellulitis lymphedema be prevented? The same precautions taken for lymphedema must be taken here as well. Avoid bug bites, cuts, prickly bushes and take all possible care to protect your skin from injuries. If there is a cut or abrasion on the lymphedema limb, the wound should be thoroughly cleaned and an antibiotic ointment applied to the area.
Repeated attacks of cellulitis in lymphedema patients may further weaken an already sluggish lymphatic system. Cellulitis makes the lymphedema worse so, in this case, prevention is better than cure. Patients must take proper care like using gloves while gardening or doing housework. Cellulitis is caused by bacteria and need not necessarily start in the affected limb. Hence, it is imperative to protect oneself from injuries and bruises at all times.
Lymphedema is a condition that remains for life. It cannot be cured but can only be kept in check with proper diet, exercise, combination therapy and proper hygiene and skin care. A similar health care routine can be maintained in order to prevent cellulitis lymphedema. In the unfortunate circumstance where you do contract this disease, it is imperative to get medical help immediately to avoid further complications.
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