Complications of lymphoedema 

Cellulitis is the most common complication of lymphoedema, but psychological issues can also occur as a result of the condition.

These complications are explained below.


Many people with lymphoedema experience repeated episodes of cellulitis (also known as erysipelas). Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the deep layer of skin (dermis) and the layer of fat and soft tissues (the subcutaneous tissues) that lie underneath the skin. Cellulitis can occur as a result of lymphoedema and can also cause the condition.

Symptoms of cellulitis can include:

  • redness and a feeling of heat in the skin
  • pain in the affected area
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • chills

Cellulitis can usually be successfully treated with antibiotics, although severe cases may need to be treated in hospital.

In some cases, you may be provided with a short supply of antibiotic tablets to use as soon as you notice symptoms of cellulitis. Alternatively, you may be given a long-term course of antibiotics to take to prevent infection.

Psychological impact

Living with a chronic (long-term) condition that affects your appearance, such as lymphoedema, can cause a great deal of distress and lead to periods of depression.

If you have been feeling particularly down for the last few months and you no longer take pleasure in the things you usually enjoy, you may be depressed. If this is the case, talk to your GP or members of your lymphoedema treatment team, because there are effective treatments for depression.

Talking to other people who also have lymphoedema can be reassuring and decrease feelings of isolation, stress and anxiety. The Lymphoedema Support Network offers information and advice, and can put you in touch with a support group in your area.

Remember: if you persevere with your treatment plan, your symptoms should eventually become less noticeable. 

Read more about treating lymphoedema.

Page last reviewed: 20/10/2014

Next review due: 20/10/2016