My local hospital is undergoing an accreditation review this month and I've been helping by auditing from a challenging patient's perspective*.
Last Saturday evening, I noticed a reddish spot on my upper arm and when I checked again Sunday night, it was no better. I wondered whether to start taking antibiotics for what appeared to be developing cellulitis (I have a course of antibiotics on hand, but they are intended for secondary respiratory infections not skin infections), so I decided to check again Monday morning to see if a doctor's appointment was required. Just 7 hours later I was stunned to find a red streak from the infection site all the way to my armpit lymph nodes, so I made an emergency appointment and was admitted to hospital and on IV antibiotics that morning. I've now learned a new word - lymphangitis, and have been given plenty of time to catch up on my reading.
Lymphangitis overview from Medscape
Seriously, if you see a red streak from an infection especially if you are neutropenic, don't delay getting urgent medical attention. Caught early enough, prognosis is excellent, but if the bacteria inflaming the lymph vessel (and causing the red streak), get into your blood stream, the resulting sepsis can prove fatal very quickly. Usually the initial skin infection and resulting lymphangitis are painful, but I haven't had any discomfort, raised body temperature or other symptoms until today, when I was hoping to be discharged. The initial infection is now tender and looking more inflamed, so now I'm on a different antibiotic and continuing my auditing efforts . I'm confident my new hospital will do well, based on my experiences.
* Severity level 4 neutropenia (ANC of 0.4) and a penicillin allergy make me a challenging patient...
Photo: Skin infection and lymphangitis on day 4 of treatment.