Overview

    Swollen lymph nodes usually occur as a result of infection from bacteria or viruses. Rarely, swollen lymph nodes are caused by cancer.

    Your lymph nodes, also called lymph glands, play a vital role in your body's ability to fight off infections. They function as filters, trapping viruses, bacteria and other causes of illnesses before they can infect other parts of your body. Common areas where you might notice swollen lymph nodes include your neck, under your chin, in your armpits and in your groin.

    In some cases, the passage of time and warm compresses may be all you need to treat swollen lymph nodes. If an infection causes swollen lymph nodes, treatment depends on the cause.

    Symptoms

    Your lymphatic system is a network of organs, vessels and lymph nodes situated throughout your body. Many lymph nodes are located in your head and neck region. Lymph nodes that frequently swell are in this area, as well as in your armpits and groin area.

    Swollen lymph nodes are a sign that something is wrong somewhere in your body. When your lymph nodes first swell, you might notice:

    • Tenderness and pain in the lymph nodes
    • Swelling that may be the size of a pea or kidney bean, or even larger in the lymph nodes

    Depending on the cause of your swollen lymph nodes, other signs and symptoms you might have include:

    • Runny nose, sore throat, fever and other indications of an upper respiratory infection
    • General swelling of lymph nodes throughout your body. When this occurs, it may indicate an infection, such as HIV or mononucleosis, or an immune system disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
    • Hard, fixed, rapidly growing nodes, indicating a possible cancer or lymphoma
    • Fever
    • Night sweats

    When to see a doctor

    Some swollen lymph nodes return to normal when the underlying condition, such as a minor infection, gets better. See your doctor if you're concerned or if your swollen lymph nodes:

    • Have appeared for no apparent reason
    • Continue to enlarge or have been present for two to four weeks
    • Feel hard or rubbery, or don't move when you push on them
    • Are accompanied by persistent fever, night sweats or unexplained weight loss

    Seek immediate medical care if you're having difficulty swallowing or breathing.

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    Causes

    Lymph nodes are small, round or bean-shaped clusters of cells. Inside lymph nodes are a combination of different types of immune system cells. These specialized cells filter your lymphatic fluid as it travels through your body and protect you by destroying invaders.

    Lymph nodes are located in groups, and each group drains a specific area of your body. You may be more likely to notice swelling in certain areas, such as in the lymph nodes in your neck, under your chin, in your armpits and in your groin. The site of the swollen lymph nodes may help identify the underlying cause.

    The most common cause of swollen lymph nodes is an infection, particularly a viral infection, such as the common cold. Other possible causes of swollen lymph nodes include:

    Common infections

    • Strep throat
    • Measles
    • Ear infections
    • Infected (abscessed) tooth
    • Mononucleosis
    • Skin or wound infections, such as cellulitis
    • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) — the virus that causes AIDS

    Uncommon infections

    • Tuberculosis
    • Certain sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis
    • Toxoplasmosisa parasitic infection resulting from contact with the feces of an infected cat or eating undercooked meat
    • Cat scratch fever — a bacterial infection from a cat scratch or bite

    Immune system disorders

    • Lupus — a chronic inflammatory disease that targets your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs
    • Rheumatoid arthritisa chronic inflammatory disease targeting the tissue that lines your joints (synovium)

    Cancers

    • Lymphoma — cancer that originates in your lymphatic system
    • Leukemia — cancer of your body's blood-forming tissue, including your bone marrow and lymphatic system
    • Other cancers that have spread (metastasized) to lymph nodes

    Other possible but rare causes include certain medications, such as the anti-seizure medication phenytoin (Dilantin) and preventive medications for malaria.

    Complications

    If infection is the cause of your swollen lymph nodes and isn't treated, an abscess may form. Abscesses are localized collections of pus caused by infections. Pus contains fluid, white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria or other invaders. An abscess may require drainage and antibiotic treatment.

    Oct. 14, 2021

    How serious is a swollen lymph node?
    Swollen lymph nodes can be a literal pain in the neck. But more often than not, minor infection or illness is the cause. They should go away as soon as your condition clears up. If you have swollen lymph nodes that don't go away or seem to grow over time, see your healthcare provider. more
    What autoimmune disease causes swollen lymph nodes?
    Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy) can be caused by many things ranging from mild infections to serious illnesses like autoimmune diseases and cancer.Examples of autoimmune diseases that can cause swollen lymph nodes are:
    • Lupus.
    • Rheumatoid arthritis.
    • Sjögren's syndrome.
    more
    Is it normal to have swollen lymph nodes after COVID-19 vaccine?
    Lymph nodes in the armpit area can become swollen after a COVID-19 vaccination, and this is a normal reaction that typically goes away with time. more
    What causes swollen stomach lymph nodes?
    The most common cause of mesenteric lymphadenitis is a viral infection, such as gastroenteritis — often called stomach flu. This infection causes inflammation in the lymph nodes in the thin tissue that attaches your intestine to the back of your abdominal wall (mesentery). more
    What cancers cause swollen lymph nodes?
    Though rare, swollen lymph nodes can be a sign of cancer. Two primary cancers associated with swollen lymph nodes are lymphoma and leukemia. more
    When should you worry about a swollen lymph node?
    Swollen lymph nodes usually just mean your body is working the way it's supposed to. But if a swollen lymph node keeps getting bigger or doesn't resolve on its own within two weeks, get it checked out. more
    What percentage of swollen lymph nodes are cancerous?
    Risk factors and associated cancers Malignancies are reported in as few as 1.1 percent of primary-care patients with swollen lymph nodes, according to a review in American Family Physician. more
    Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause swollen lymph nodes?
    Swollen lymph nodes are a normal vaccine side effect, as the body produces antibodies against the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. more
    When should you worry about a swollen lymph node?
    Swollen lymph nodes usually just mean your body is working the way it's supposed to. But if a swollen lymph node keeps getting bigger or doesn't resolve on its own within two weeks, get it checked out. more
    What medications cause swollen lymph nodes?
    What medications cause lymph nodes to swell?
    • Some antibiotics (cephalosporins, sulpha drugs, penicillins)
    • Some blood pressure medications (captopril, atenolol, hydralazine)
    • Some anticonvulsants (carbamazepine, phenytoin, lamotrigine, primidone)
    • Quinidine, allopurinol, sulindac, pyrimethamine, and gold.
    more
    What kind of doctor treats swollen lymph nodes?
    Swollen lymph nodes (or glands) may need to be treated by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. Chronic swelling of the lymph nodes can be a sign of a serious problem. Because of their highly specialized training, the ENT is the doctor to see if you have any of these symptoms: Fever over 104 degrees F. more

    Source: www.mayoclinic.org

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