Infections Associated with Lymphedema
BY JOACHIM ZUTHER, ON OCTOBER 29TH, 2010
There are numerous reasons why patients with lymphedema are at an increased risk for infections. Normally the body is protected by a fine acid layer on the surface of the skin, which prevents bacteria and other pathogens from entering. However, the skin in lymphedema tends to be dry and scaly, causing a disruption of the protective acid layer, or if deepened skin folds are present, moisture collecting in these folds may create a breeding ground for bacteria. The fact that the swelling present in lymphedema causes a disruption of the local immune defense in the affected tissues further complicates this situation. Once bacteria are able to enter lymphedematous tissue, protein and accumulated waste products present in lymphedema provide an ideal breeding ground for infection. Due to the swelling, even in minimal lymphedema, the body’s natural defense cells may not be able to fight these invaders sufficiently.
The initial onset of lymphedema, as well as the worsening of present lymphedema is frequently associated with the occurrence of infections. It is thought that these infections result in increased fibrosis of lymph vessels and lymph nodes, thus further complicating lymphedema.
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Editor's Note: I am including this article not only because of the quality of the information, but as an introduction to one of the best lymphedema information sites available. The blog was founded and is maintained by Joachm Zuther of the Academy of Lymphatic Studies. You really need to include this blog in your list of reading sites. Pat O'Connor