Gardening Tips and Tricks : Lymphedema Cellulitis – A Major Complication
Being a bacterial infection, cellulitis causes skin inflammation. For patients of lymphedema, cellulitis is a common occurrence and a complication they encounter very often. In patients suffering from lymphedema, the swelling leaves the skin stretched and therefore more vulnerable to all kinds of infection. Since the lymphatic system and the immune system of the body are closely linked, any damage to the lymphatic system compromises the patient’s immunity to infection. The weakened immune system is incapable of fending off the infection attacks, leaving the body susceptible to repeated attacks and increased infection. This vicious cycle leads to cellulitis in lymphedema patients.
The main cause for cellulitis is bacteria known as the staphylococcus aureus or the streptococcus. Often, the entry point for bacteria is a tiny cut or mosquito bite or a bruise. The most common symptoms would be a swelling and pain in the area, rash on the skin, fever, chills and the area feels warm to the touch. However, all the symptoms may not be present at one time. Each individual will experience a difference in the appearance of the symptoms. Even when cellulitis reoccurs in a patient, it may look different from the previous episode. The usual place of occurrence is the legs, but it could also affect the face or arms and the scalp.
The treatment for cellulitis is in the form of antibiotics. If treatment is quick, the cellulitis subsides within a week. However, in some lymphedema patients, cellulitis may be so severe that that may need to stay at a hospital for intravenous administration of antibiotic drugs. This could indeed be a lymphedema patient’s worst experience causing the most frequent visits to the hospital. Timely treatment is essential to avoid complications or further deterioration of the condition.
During the cellulitis attack, the patient may have to stop the lymphedema therapy. Until the infection clears, the manual lymph drainage sessions must be ceased. The compression bandaging must be ceased and the compression garments must not be used during the period. As much as possible, the patient is advised to keep the affected limb elevated. Antibiotic course prescribed for the treatment must be completed even if the symptoms appear to have gone away.
In order to prevent cellulitis, lymphedema patients must take extra precautions. A cut or bruise should not be ignored and must be treated immediately. Cleaning the wound and applying an antibiotic cream is the best method. Bandaging the wound promotes healing, although the bandage needs to be changed daily. Patients must also be alert to fungal infections of the feet. Skin care is highly important as this helps to keep the infections at bay. General precautions like these are the best way for lymphedema patients to prevent cellulitis. Other simple precautions include wearing gloves while handling detergents, using sharp tools and gardening. Lymphedema patients must avoid walking barefoot and avoid sharp objects. Such simple precautions will go a long way in preventing complications for lymphedema patients.