Tips & Tricks

Lymphorrhea: the leakage of lymph

Sprung a leak? Here's what's going on.

Edit: we recently revisited this topic in more detail – you can read that post here!

Since I was around eighteen years old, I’ve experienced the occasional leaking of fluid from my right leg. I remember when it first happened, during a final exam in my senior year of high school. There was so much fluid that my shoe was completely soaked, and I sat through the rest of the exam embarrassed and silently freaking out, with no idea what was happening or why. It’s occurred probably a handful of times since then, but this past week it’s been happening more often than usual.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been baffled and a little freaked out by your leaking limbs and would like to know what the hell is going on. So, without further ado, here is my short-but-sweet guide to lymphorrhea.


What’s leaking out of my leg/arm/etc?

The light, amber-colored fluid that is beading and trickling from your skin is called lymph. The leaking or weeping of this protein-rich lymph is known as lymphorrhea.

What causes this to happen?

Insect bites, abrasions, cuts, wounds, or cracks in the skin can enable the lymph fluid to seep out. Whenever I’ve had it, it drains from an extremely small break in my skin about the size of a pore.

What complications can it cause?

There are two main complications that lymphorrhea can spell out for lymphies, one of which being infection. The lymph fluid is considered a natural food source for bacteria, meaning the wound becomes an entry point for the bacteria to enter your body and cause infections such as cellulitis, lymphangitis, or erysipelas. Lymphorrhea is also highly caustic to skin tissue, and when the drainage is left untreated, it could quickly become a large, gaping wound. When this happens, skin grafts are often required.

How do I avoid it?

The best thing you can do to avoid getting lymphorrhea is to take care of your skin. Keep it moisturized, as dry skin will lead to cracking and could cause the fluid to leak. Also, avoid cuts, bites, and scrapes if you can. Obviously it’s difficult to avoid these things to a T (unless you want to enclose your affected limb in a bubble!), but if you’re careful then your chances of contracting it will be lessened.

What do I do if I get it?

If you spring a leak, don’t worry – there are things you can do to treat it. First, you should clean the area where the fluid is leaking to reduce infection. Then, apply a moisturizing lotion to help heal the skin and protect it from further breakdown. Dress the wound with clean, absorbent, non-sticky bandages, and then wrap your limb with compression bandages to help stop the drainage. With this added pressure, the leaking should stop within one or two days. Don’t forget to change the bandages often, as they’ll become wet and uncomfortable from the lymph. When you’re at rest, elevate that sucker! Once the leakage has stopped and your skin is restored, you can don your usual garments again.

So there you have it – the basics of lymphorrhea and how to treat it. I hope you’re all doing well, and keeping good care of your body!
xxox alexa

61 comments on “Lymphorrhea: the leakage of lymph

  1. Hi Alexa! Thanks to the wonders of technology I now know what you look like. Listen, I spent some time this morning at Penn Therapy and Fitness, where Bryan Spinelli, Master Lymphedema Therapist (that’s my designation; what his actual title there is is anyone’s guess), gave me a crash course in the use of kinesio tape. I now have some on both feet and going up the sides of my left leg from ankle to shin. I only know it’s there because he and I put it there; I’m not aware of its presence otherwise. Tomorrow morning I have to take it off, and then whenever I have some time on Friday (at least 24 hours after I take the first stuff off), cut more and put it on. It’ll stay on in the shower, or so I’m told. Keeping Marius, my younger cat, away from it is going to be interesting. His official name is Marius Underfoot Intraomnia Pilvin, and he got his two middle names because he deserved them richly. He’s three, measures 36″ all stretched out from the tip of a forepaw to the tip of his long tail, is very loyal to his Mama (meets me at the door, latches on to my leg and thereby gets himself stepped on unless I happen to be looking down), has eating habits that indicate a species identity disorder (he thinks he’s a goat, a misconception I try hard to discourage), and has convinced me that he’s part dog. Now then…Bryan tells me there’s at least one lymphedema therapist at Johns Hopkins, and they have a physical medicine and rehab center (I may be off on the name) that I suspect is wonderful, since everything at Johns Hopkins is. I don’t know anyone in that particular field at JHU but I go to the annual mood disorders symposium there, and the psych department is one of the best. Hopkins Medicine is way up there in the rankings overall, and I’m sure that whoever they have in lymphedema therapy is an expert. Bryan thinks there might be someone there named Maureen, possibly MacBeth. I didn’t give him your name, in case you’re wondering; I just told him I knew of someone with lymphedema very much like mine who was in Baltimore.

    • Marius sounds wonderful – I find that the cats I like the most are the ones who hardly act like cats at all! I just got a new kitten (Piper) and she’s always getting underfoot, or climbing anything she can sink her tiny little claws into. She’s begun antagonizing our older cat, Annie, much to Annie’s chagrin.

      Hopkins is a great place. I was there for my eating disorder treatment last year, and they definitely know what they’re doing. I’ll have to look into their lymphedema therapist; I’ve been to one at GBMC (Greater Baltimore Medical Center), but that was years ago. I still haven’t gotten my new garments yet.. I really need to get the ball rolling, especially now that it’s spreading. Buhhh.

      • Christine digregorio

        Ok now this might be a weird questions but one I hope you can spread some light on I have this clear honey colored liquid that leaks from my breast and has done this for 2 yrs now there is no smell or anything they just continue to leak

  2. Great advice from Barbara. You need to find a resource you can call on when you’re home (isn’t Baltimore your home when not in Vermont?) and Hopkins of course has a great reputation as you’ve seen. But don’t overlook smaller “boutique” clinics that specialize in Lymphedema. The best ones here in Denver are not a the big hospitals (although Lutheran I think has some great staff). National Lymphedema Network shows two affiliated centers with some impressive staff training at Lanham, MD and Rockville, MD. Maybe they’re nearby?
    Judging from your new clothing photos and the reduced swelling in your toes if I’m seeing that correctly maybe you have the “bakery swelling” under control? Myself, I’ve only had lymphorrhea once, last summer, but it was in the genitals. That scared me to death because not only did it look gross but my PT had warned me to be on the lookout for swelling “down there” and to deal with it immediately. Well, I was on a vacation in Montana and had to deal with it via email instructions. And even though one part of me looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy, fortunately the seeping was confined to one spot “below there” that I was able to get under control quickly with the abdomen massage techniques and changing out of the new Medi garment.
    What I learned (in addition to all you’ve said about lymphorrhea) was that a sudden inflow of lymph fluid can sort of “shock” your system (my term) and it becomes overwhelmed. It swells more and, as you and I have discovered, sometimes has to find a new way out – a break in the skin.
    And the lymphorrhea I got last summer was caused by a similar surge of fluid into the groin that was brought about by a poor fit in my new Medi garment. It was much too tall and when I bent over during long days of construction work, helping a Missoula family build a straw bale house, the garment rolled down at the waist to form a tight band around my waist. The fluid coming up from the legs couldn’t get into my abdomen and instead went down. When I changed back to the prior Medi garment and took away that garment fold the swelling went away. Put the garment back on, it rolled down, trapped the fluid and lymphorrhea came back.
    So the second thing I learned was to always make a mental note of what’s changing in my garments, in my diet, in my exercise. Sometimes it might take a day or two for your lymphedema to respond to those changes, but if you can link the changed lymphedema to another change it’s much easier to understand and deal with.

    Oh, my, the things we have to deal with, huh?

    • Ugh, you’re right – we have to deal with some extremely trying things. I’m sorry you had lymphorrhea in your groin; that’s a personal fear of mine. At least you were able to pinpoint exactly what was causing it! And what a relief that it was just your garment, and not your internal plumbling (so to speak).

      “Sometimes it might take a day or two for your lymphedema to respond to those changes, but if you can link the changed lymphedema to another change it’s much easier to understand and deal with.” <– You couldn't have said this any better!! I think this rings so true for us lymphies. We have to be especially attuned to our bodies because our happen to shout a little louder when something's wrong. Kind of like a screaming baby. And we gotta make it so that that screaming baby is soothed before it starts to drive us crazy! In our case, the screaming baby is the swelling, that will continue to get worse until we treat it. I feel like this is a strange metaphor, but I hope it makes sense! Haha.

  3. I didn’t know that.

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  5. I have this problem, but it’s on my scalp at the back of my head. I’ve never heard of this before, but I stumbled upon the term after my head leaked non-stop for 3 days (and still going!) after I scratched it a bit too hard and broke the skin a little, and I was just wondering who deals with things like this? Since it’s on my head and not a limb, I have no idea how to go about patching it up. I wasn’t sure if I should go to my family doctor, an ER or find a specialist (if so, what would their title be?) Thanks for you help!

    • Hi, Kayla,

      I think your best bet would be to see a lymphedema therapist. My regular doctor didn’t know anything about lymphorrhea when it first happened to me and was baffled. I hope you can find someone in your area who can help you!! Best of luck.

  6. sukie johnson

    How do you deal with the odor associated with the leaking fluid?

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  13. After years of leg ulcers I finally have one that has almost healed but can’t quite get there because of the problem you’ve described. I have tried wearing proper pressure stockings over the dressed wounds but everything keeps getting soaked. Do you recommend increasing the pressure with bandages? Any other suggestions?

  14. Help! In April 2014 I had lower back pain and swelling and a resulting fever. The swelling was from an abscess which was then lanced by a surgeon. Unfortunately, the surgeons cut never healed and instead started to leak fluid which I was told was lymph fluid. I was passed from doctor to doctor but to date no one has been able to stop the leaking. I was told I had a Lymphatic malformation and sent to an intervetional radiologist who performed a venography and a direct injection. I was told that they were trying to cauterize the malformation but it was not a success. The doctor wants to do it again but I am reluctant. The cut has attempted to heal itself but twice it popped and once it healed for 3 weeks (Jan 2015) but then I developed a fever and just before I started antibiotics it popped again. The CT scan results showed that I have 2 collections of fluid in my abdomen. Has anyone ever heard of this before or know of a cure. Thank you

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  16. Nancy Ward

    Someone I know has the leaking from his legs in large amounts.He wraps it and occasionally puts lotion on it.What are the long term affects other than damaged skin.He will not go to the Dr. And there is an odor to it.He had this once before,but was being treated at at a wound center for it and it went away Any information is helpful. Thank you.

    • Leaving it untreated can and will lead to malnourishment


  18. Christine M. Kelly-Boyd

    Thank you so much! I am a “lymphi ” of over 10 years in my left leg due to Hodgkins Disease surgery & radiation blocked my lymph flow & now my left leg looks like a much larger person should own it as my right leg is skrawny! In all these years I have never had this happen. I got a little mosquito bite 2 weeks ago. Then 3 days ago I started noticing that my clothes & shoe were wet when I undressed at night-soaked! The liquid doesn’t smell at all & is clear. Last night I cleaned the area thoroughly as us cancer patients had to learn to do. I padded & bandaged it & slept as always with my leg elevated. I woke up to a swollen (wet) bandage & when removed a little river gushed. Then I cleaned again & left uncovered for a few hours. It didn’t leak, so I repadded it & bandaged. After cooking dinner everything soaked again :( . There is absolutely no sign of infection. ..no redness, smell, swelling or heat. I am glad you gave some idea of what is happening. I was recently on 2 antibiotics due to a tooth infection & these events have been concurrent. I wonder if I had some other undiagnosed infection that was being cleared up by the antibiotics. If this doesn’t stop in another day or 2, I guess I have to bite the bullet & see a doctor. My problem is almost all docs are ignorant on lymphadema, how to treat or what issues might pop up. So frustrating! Do you have any tips on finding a doc that’s familiar with the issues of lymphadema? Thanks again!

    • Hi, Christine,

      I’m so sorry to hear you’ve been going through all that, but am glad you were able to find this post helpful! I support your decision in going to see a doctor, although it definitely can be hard to find one whose familiar enough with lymphedema to treat you properly. Luckily, there are some great resources out there to find a lymphedema therapist to help you out!! Give these sites a try:


      Hope those help, and best of luck to you!
      Be well,

    • I have the exact same thing as you on my left leg. However I am overweight but very active. I have had this twice before about 5 years ago. Caused from a puncture wound. This time, I was working in my yard cleaning up winter sticks from a storm and apparently got a small wound I was not even aware of until that evening. This has been two weeks of leaking fluid now. No infection, just clear water soaking everything. I ran out of waterproof pads so I am improvising. Today I am going to wrap it with a ace bandage to see if it helps any. I have not gone to the doc because I know it will be a waisted time. No sign of Celluitis as I have had that in the past. I am on a warfarin blood thinner so I was wondering if that contributes to the leaking. Another thing I noticed was due to my age, 73 my skin is very thin but also my legs get painful at times. Kind of a weird leg crampy feeling in the lower half of my legs this is right where the wound is also. Do you get that too?

  19. Thank you!!! Finally, an explanation! Thank you thank you thank you! I have been getting this for only the past year, but it’s uncomfortable and I didn’t know what to do about it. Now I think I can deal with it. Thanks again!

  20. Helen Beer

    My mother has had fluid leaking from her groin area for over a year. She suffers from cellulitis in her legs.
    The Doctors and nurses have tried steroidal creams, creams and antibiotics but the leakage persists.
    The area is too difficult to cover
    My mother and I are at our wits and.
    Please help us

  21. janet miles

    I have lymphedema in my right leg it won’t stop leaking fluid it has been about two weeks now it’s like someone has turned a top on i have to wear nappies because it is the one thing that last about a hour before i have to change it again i have a open wound on my right ankle due to surgery to remove screws that is also leaking they say i can’t wear the tight things they give me because i have a open wound will some body help i don’t think i can carry on any more please can some one help me

    • Oh my God. Have mercy on her. I’m so afraid. Been dealing with this swelling for a few years now. Finally I realize it’s my way of life now. Today my leg started leaking. First time. I’m schedule for surgery on my back Monday Hope and pray the two won’t conflict You guys are so right no one seems to know how to treat Lymphedema My therapist discharge me this month. I am so lost. I work a full time job. Will I be able to continue working? I’m so happy to have found this site. Thanks to everyone for the info.

      • Oh, no — I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through, Debra. Do you have a lymphedema therapist to help manage and treat your swelling, especially post-surgery? Keeping you in my thoughts, and wishing you best of luck with your surgery tomorrow. Stay strong!!

        • The therapist I had discharge me last month. She was only concern with the swelling in my left arm. She said the swelling in my legs was not affiliated with the arm. ??????
          Like someone said no one seems to know exactly how to treat Lymphedema. My therapist direct me to my MD. She have study done to make sure there are no blood clots and give me diruretics. My onocologist sends me to the Lymphedema therapist. So I’m completely lost. Have not had anymore drainage since yesterday. I moisturizer my legs and feet put some neosporin on it. But as soon as I can get to my MD or Onocologist I will address this. Thanks for responding.

  22. Muriel Walton

    I had breast cancer surgery in 2009 when the removal of 17 lymph nodes in the adjoining arm was thought to be necessary. Occasionally my arm would swell due to clapping, scrubbing, gardening or other repetitive actions. Recently my arm began to leak lymph at the dinner table! I searched my large book entitled Lymphedemia but found NOT ONE WORD about leakage. Your information is gratefully received. I had no scratches or visible openings on my arm, but thinking back a few days, I realize that excessive sun and outdoor exercise in the heat is probably the cause. I will go and moisturized my skin and try not to overdo golf and hiking, and gardening in the hot sun. Many thanks to you Alexa.

  23. Pingback: Springing a leak: understanding and treating lymphorrhea – The Lymphie Life

  24. Found this by accident but glad I did. My right leg has been leaking for years. I would stick thick gauge around it then another bandage around that. It wasn’t until 4 months ago that it got BAD for me. I spent 9 days in a hospital taking antibiotics through IV. Tried over 7 different medicines through IV before they found the right one. It was swollen. It was blisters . skin was RED and VERY HOT! Now I have a dr that keeps it checked out. Thank you for your article. I had cellulitis. I do IV infusion when needed.

  25. Brian Washburn

    Hi my name is Brian I’m 45 years old and live in one of the most violent cities in the nation (Yakima Washington) any way’s I’ve been dealing with leaking legs for 3 years with many trips to the hospital and they always say I have an infection but I argue and then they do nothing and send me on my way. I’m at my wits end and I don’t know what to do.

  26. Janice Giorlando

    Thank you for this blog. Very helpful. I’ve had leg lymph edema since cancer surgery 40 years ago. Just returned from having a small specimen taken from my right leg for a biopsy. My leg sprung a leak on the way home from the doctor’s office. Never had this happen before. Read your blog and now know what to do. Also never knew about edema therapy until very recently. No doctor has ever recommended it. I just wear compression stockings every day. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona — (we should be more enlightened).

  27. Sharon Southerland

    Hi! I am new to this blog, but have spent 25 of my 81 years dealing with wrappings, etc. Finally developed cellulitis staph last year with a subsequent leak in left calf. Bandages were useless. What to do? Well, I adapted a trusty Tena pad with paper tape!

    This worked fine. And if you Lymphie guys are squeamish, big brawny construction workers have been strapping feminine pads to their foreheads for years. Yeah, really!

    Glad to have found you all.

    Sharon in Jax Beach

  28. Melinda Bickham

    I have lymphedema in both legs. I can’t shave my legs because of this, which really bothers me. If I accidentally cut my leg it starts leaking. Do you have any ideas about shaving? Thank you

    • When my skin got paper thin I went out and bought an electric shaver for my legs. It works out great, no rash, no cuts. Try that.

  29. Catherine McCormack

    Hi thank you just read what you have said I got Lyphmedeama 10 yrs ago after breast Cancer and Lythmodes removed I have it in both legs. It has been ok few prblems at start but learned to deal with it but yesterday cut my leg and the leg is leaking through dressings. I cleaned and dressed cut straight aay but all afternoon, night and so far this morning its still leaking fast tried keeping off leg and keeping it raised but still leaking should i call my doctor or just give it a little while longer as I dont like to bother then . Many thanks Cathy

    • Hi i’m sorry to hear you had cancer i hope you got the all clear do you have any thing like tube grip i wear them and put my dressings underneath them i find they help because they are elasticated and sometimes wear two but i get a small size so they are tighter i hope you can find something that helps you you could give the tube grip a try and see if that works for you

  30. Sharon Southerland

    Get medical care. My OT uses a special wrap called a Uniboot. Get some Silvadene from MD.

    It may take a few days but keep it wrapped.


  31. Does anyone know how to “dissolve” lymph that has dried on your skin? Vaseline just seems to sit on the top and saline doesn’t do much either. I’m going through what I believe is a toxic skin reaction to Methotrexate and my skin is “sheeting” off followed by a torrent of lymph. Any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated.

  32. can a burn provoke this?

  33. Hi, i’m Anne. I have lymphedema in both feet and outer ankles. Around two days ago I grazed my inner left ankle and it’s been leaking fluid although the small wound seems to have scabbed over. After reading this blog, I have put on compression socks. PLEASE can someone tell me if they think this is going to help. We’re going on holiday in around three weeks and i’m scared silly about ulceration or infection. PLEASE respond, i’m So frightened.

    • Alexa Ercolano

      Hi Anne, this may help in the interim, along with keeping the area cleaned and dry, but please see a doctor or lymphedema therapist for proper treatment. Don’t risk infection, especially prior to travelling! I hope you feel better soon – wishing you safe & healthy travels.

  34. Kamille D Jones

    That’s crazy to hear all these people who have gone thru same thing. So I started getting this wed dripping sensation down my legs. Shins mostly down to ankles. It started around 3 years after my meth addiction started. It got so bad , every time I would get high , I thought I peed myself but would always be dry. It was so uncomfortable n I continued to get high anyway n be so awkward in front of people because towards the end it was instant. I would get high n start “dripping”. I was convinced everyone around me knew. N the Netherlands made the paranoia worse. I would go to the bathroom countless times to check. Nothing ever there. The paranoia got so bad I would think people were just staring at my legs but no one ever said anything. I mean if I really was obviously dripping I would think one of the countless people I was around would say something?. But then sometimes i could swear there stripes sgoing frkm my knees down, that were darker from thetrest if my jeans. Maybe I was leaking but just not bad enough to see an actual drip?, it in part was a big factor in me cleaning up my act. I’m 28 and have been on drugs since 16. I have now been clean n sober for 4 months and the sensation is gone. Although it MILDLY comes back when I drink too much coffee. Still trying to put my finger on the coralation. Never seen a doctor for it.

    • First, congrats for being clean so far, and I wish you all the best with your journey to your healthy self!!!!

      Second thanks for giving me an idea of what MIGHT be a cause of my lymph dripping, by mentioning coffee.

      I drink coffee on and off, in periods, and just max 2 cups a day. In my 4 years of lymphedema, this leakage happened only 4 times I think and I never made the connection to coffee.

      But this is what happened today: I’m going through a light detox these days, using a product for the first time, with awesome results so far. Meanwhile I am also having a coffee period.

      Hm. I will monitor this.

  35. James Hooker

    what can you do about the Oder from my legs Ian a male and got it do chf can you help my son clean them after using the leg pumps but he hate the Oder

  36. ALEXA ERCOLANO I get this when my cat decides to climb my leg.. I woke up this morning with my pants soak and wet and like you said my shoe wet..I have found if u hold pressure to it it will slow down ..I use to see my moms leg do the same thing and it would freak me out for her..I wish there was something I could do to make my legs quit doing this I haven’t read all the comments yet to see if there was something..But it is so embarrassing..I don’t want to go to the store when this happens I hate it just as much as you guys do..

    • i have had Lymphedema for four years now i see my surgeon who did the operation but there is still no answers i have to go every for to five weeks to see him so he can check on it i have compression wrap what the Lymphedema clincic gave me it does help a lot but the open wound still stays open it feels like it will only stop when i am dead .

  37. I have just started having problems with this. Last fall I had a unexplained leak in my arm. Just yesterday my upper hip and the side of my butt check started to drain. I read the article and comments but am unsure how I would compress and wrap this area. I have multiple health problems including low kidney function. Any help would be appreciated

  38. Excuse me that’d be cheek.

  39. A few years ago I had an incident like this in my left forearm. August of 2016 was the hottest month on record, while we were renovating, downsizing, and moving into an old house. It was a very stressful time physically and emotionally for many reasons that I won’t get into. The skin on my left forearm got very tight and hot, and it itched. After several weeks it started to leak clear, oderless fluid off and on for several days. Then on the day the movers came with the truck and loaded all of our furniture, my arm gushed all day. It kept the clothes on my left side wet for several days. I ignored it the best I could and kept working. The condition gradually subsided over the next few weeks and has not happened again.

    I have been looking for the explanation since it happened and this is the first thing that has made real sense to me. It was probably lymph fluid draining. I always knew it had something to do with the heat, and something to do with having no lymphnodes under my left arm.

    I should add that I had a mastectormy for breast cancer many years ago. In addition to removing my left breast, they took all of the lymphnodes under my left arm. When I turned 50 and went into menopause I developed mild lymphedema and swelling in my left arm. This condition has remained very stable, not getting any better or worse, over the last 15 years, except for this incident in August of 2016 when we moved.

    I am grateful for all of the above posts which I read through and learned so much. I will certainly take it more seriously if it happens again and take better care of myself to prevent complications.

    All the best, Channah

  40. I have lymphedema in my right arm/hand. I barely nicked my arm yesterday and experienced the weeping. I have a product called Duoderm it is a thin transparent skin-like protective bandage that you cut and fit over your skin. Available OTC at Walgreens. So far it has sealed off the leak and there is no wetness. It looks like a small water blister underneath. Am keeping on my compression garments and also rebounding on my BELLICON rebounder to gently move the lymph. The best exercise for us lymphies. Hope this helps someone.

    • Hi looked up the Duoderm and i am going to buy some to see if it works with my ankle it’s five years this October since the ankle fusion and still leakng i will try anything thank you for sending me the email

  41. My best bud is my dermatologist. Best help on relief and management of the skin aspects of hereditary lymphoedema.

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