lymphedema Infection and Treatment
For people suffering from lymphedema infection is the major cause for frequent visits to the hospital or medical emergencies that need prompt attention. In a normal person, a thin layer of the skin known as the acid mantle protects the body and prevents bacteria from entering. However, in case of a lymphedema patient, this protective covering is weakened, making it very easy for bacteria to enter. Additionally, the immune system is also weak and thus unable to fight off the bacterial infection, rendering the patient prone to repeated bouts of infection.
The most common form of infection that a lymphedema patient may develop is cellulitis, which can be a major complication requiring hospitalization. The bacteria cause an infection in the swollen skin tissues and may attack the lymph vessels or travel through the lymphatic system and enter the blood stream. The protein-rich accumulated fluid in the swollen limb forms a rich culture for the bacteria to multiply and spread into the body. The clinical signs of the infections will appear as red streaks on the skin and the area will feel warm to the touch. The swelling as well as pain may increase. The patient may run a fever with chills or show flu-like symptoms. Sometimes, the lymph nodes may become enlarged as they fight against the infection.
Any signs of infection in lymphedema sufferers should not be taken lightly and prompt treatment should be started. Patients at risk of lymphedema should be alert to these clues which show that the lymphedema is developing even though they have not yet been diagnosed for the ailment. In such situations, if the treatment is delayed, the issue will become serious and the complications may be very difficult to treat. Patients may have to be hospitalized for administering antibiotics intravenously.
Treatment for infection is usually a course of antibiotics. Any manual lymph drainage therapy and compression bandaging must be stopped till the infection is cured. This may take about 3 to 8 days to clear, depending on the severity of the infection. Fungal infections are difficult to diagnose as the symptoms are present very deep in the tissues. Fungal infections may be mild and resolve without the use of antibiotics.
People who are at risk of lymphedema must take adequate precautions to protect themselves. Minor nicks, cuts and bruises can be treated with the appropriate first aid, so as to prevent it from getting infected. In case of itchy rash, it is advisable to apply an anti-itch cream to the affected area. Bruises, insect bites and burns are other causes for infection and must be treated immediately. If the problem is not resolved with first-aid, it is advisable to consult the doctor. Since lymphedema patients are easily prone to infection, it might be a good practice to carry some antibiotics or at least a prescription for them while travelling.
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