There's a vicious cycle that occurs between lymphedema and cellulitis. Chronic lymphedema can increase one's risk of recurrent episodes of cellulitis and lymphedema can occur as a result of cellulitis.
What is cellulitis?
Cellulitis is an acute inflammation of the skin and subcutaneous tissue. It is usually caused by the Streptococcus and Staphylococcus bacteria. Usually affecting the lower extremities, cellulitis can cause general malaise, hypotension, tachycardia, and a painful swelling at the affected site. This site can be hot and tender to touch.
There are several factors associated with the occurrence of cellulitis. Lymphedema is one of them especially in cases of recurrent cellulitis.
Cellulitis associated with lymphedema are shown to be more aggressive and come with more severe symptoms. a
What is lymphedema?
Lymphedema is a condition characterized by an excessive interstitial fluid as a result of impairment of lymphatic drainage.
There are two types of lymphedema – primary and secondary lymphedema.
Primary lymphedema occurs as a result of an abnormality in lymphatic development, whether it's genetic or as a result of a congenital condition.
Secondary lymphedema is the type of lymphedema that occurs as a result of an extrinsic process. This can be an infection, surgery, or malignancy which damages a previously healthy and well-functioning lymphatic system.
Chronic swelling of one or more limbs is the most common sign of lymphedema. It can be accompanied by thickening and pitting of the skin, which gives the skin a warty texture.
The Relationship Between Lymphedema and Cellulitis
Studies have shown that the relationship between lymphedema and cellulitis is a vicious cycle. Each time a person develops cellulitis, the further the damage it causes to the lymphatic system, increasing his/her risk of lymphedema.
Lymphedema can increase one's risk of cellulitis. The protein-rich lymph creates an excellent medium for bacteria to grow. With a damaged lymphatic system, the stagnation of this fluid can cause a state of local immune deficiency. This, in turn, increases one's risk of local cellulitis.
To prevent the worsening of lymphedema and cellulitis, it is therefore important to treat both conditions appropriately. The use of antibiotics combined with self-care measures can help.
Image: eflon via Flickr