Lymph nodes are located throughout the entire body. They are a significant component of the immune system and are responsible for assisting the body in recognizing infections and fighting off infections, germs and illness. Lymph nodes typically become enlarged or swollen in the presence of a virus or bacteria; very rarely is lymph node swelling the result of cancer.
A lymph node is a small, round group of cells that is sheltered by connective tissue. It is the job of the lymph nodes to filter out any predatory bacteria from the lymphatic fluid as it courses through the body. When lymph nodes become inflamed due to an infection (commonly bacterial), the condition is called lymphadenitis. Lymph nodes most commonly become swollen due to an infection. Swollen lymph nodes may be felt in areas such as:
The lymphatic system runs throughout the body and lymph nodes are situated in several places. The majority of lymph nodes are found in the area of the neck and head. Swollen lymph nodes are usually discovered this region or in the groin or armpits. If any of your lymph nodes are swollen you may have symptoms including:
You may notice other symptoms in conjunction with swollen lymph nodes, these symptoms are usually due to the underlying cause of infection and include:
Lymph nodes are grouped in clusters; each cluster is responsible for filtering lymphatic fluid for that specific area of the body. The area of swollen lymph nodes could be a clue as to the cause of the swelling. The most common condition associated with the development of swollen lymph nodes is a viral infection. However, lymph nodes may also swell due to bacterial infections and other illnesses including:
Less Common Infections
Disorders of The Immune System
In order to diagnose the cause of your swollen lymph nodes your doctor will likely do a complete medical history, a review of your current symptoms and a physical examination. In addition, your doctor may order tests to help reach a formal diagnosis of the underlying cause. Diagnostic tests may include:
If your swollen lymph nodes are the result of a viral infection, antibiotics will not be useful, but they are a treatment option if lymph node swelling is the result of a bacterial infection. Swollen lymph nodes due to viral infections will usually resolve themselves over time. If the swollen lymph nodes are the result of any other type of infection or other causes, treatment may include:
Treatment For Infection
Treatment For Immune Disorder
Treatment For Cancer
If your swollen lymph nodes are due to cancer, the cancer will need to be treated. Treatment for cancer may include:
If your swollen lymph nodes are caused by infection and that infection remains untreated, complications may arise. These complications may include:
If you are experiencing swollen lymph nodes that are painful and sore, you may be able to combat symptoms at home in the following ways:
If you have swollen lymph nodes make an appointment with your doctor to evaluate your symptoms. Generally, lymph nodes that become swollen and painful suddenly are typically the result of some type of infection. Lymph nodes that swell over time and seem painless may be the result of a tumor or certain cancers. Lymph nodes that are hard, red, irregular or tender should be looked at by a doctor right away.
Lymph nodes are located in several parts of the body. The most common site for swollen lymph nodes is the area of the head or neck. Swollen lymph nodes may also be referred to as swollen glands. The most common cause for swollen lymph nodes is some presence of infection in the body. If you have symptoms associated with swollen lymph nodes or think they may be the result of an underlying medical condition contact your health care provider.