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Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

There can be several causes of swollen lymph nodes. It is important to know about them, as they can be an underlying symptom of many diseases.
Kalpana Kumari
Last Updated: Jan 21, 2018
Lymph nodes are small clusters of lymphocytes and macrophages cells. They are found enclosed in a capsule. They are an important part of the immune system, as the lymphocytes produce antibodies (proteins that bind with infectious agents and destroy them), and macrophages (cells that phagocytose the debris). They are present throughout the body. They are located in the armpits, neck, behind the ears, on the back of the head, under the jaw and chin, and groin areas. Sometimes, the swollen lymph glands are noticeable. The medical term to describe this condition is lymphadenopathy. In thia article, you will learn about the various causes of swollen lymph nodes.
Causes
  • When your body is infected with a foreign body (e.g., bacteria, fungi, or virus), the immune system works hard to fight against it. In the process, the production of white blood cells increases. This increased number of white blood cells causes the lymph nodes to swell.
  • The swelling can be of two types, localized and systemic. The former is the one where the nodes swell at a particular region of the body. This occurs when the infection itself is restricted to a part of the body. In case the infection spreads through the entire body, it gives rise to the latter.
  • Even a minor infection can cause this condition. Though the main cause is either a bacterial or viral infection, it can also be caused by tumors and mumps.
  • You can yourself identify the cause of this disorder. If the swelling occurred suddenly, the most probable reason is a bacterial or viral attack. If the swelling is slow and painless, it often indicates a tumor. If they are present in the jaws and neck, it might be due to mumps or gingivitis.
  • The condition in the neck can also be because of common cold and throat infection. At times, even cuts, burns, and rashes can be a cause.
  • This condition can be a symptom of some other disease, such as tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, Hodgkin's disease, Gaucher disease, yaws, non-hodgkin's lymphomas, lupus, syphilis, AIDS, nucleosis, ear sore, tonsillitis, skin infections, rheumatoid arthritis, leukemia, lymphoma, etc. Swelling can also occur as side-effects of some medicines, such as phenytoin, and vaccines against typhoid.
Treatment
  • This condition is only an indication of some disorder the body is suffering from. It usually disappears in a few days and does not need any specific treatment.
  • However, if you notice that the swelling is more than 1 cm in size and is not decreasing over several weeks, is becoming red, hard, and irregular in shape (they are generally in bean-shape), then you must see a medical practitioner.
  • Other symptoms that indicate problems with this swelling are night sweat, high fever, and fast weight loss.
  • The doctor performs certain physical examinations, asks for blood, liver function, and kidney function test along with CBC with differential.
  • The doctor may also perform chest X-ray, biopsy of the lymph nodes and liver-spleen scan.
  • Meanwhile, the doctor treats you, reduces the pain by prescribing some over-the-counter analgesics.
  • Keeping cold wet towels on the swelling is also quite soothing and comforting.
Lymph nodes are important in maintaining a sound health. They protect your body from a number of infections, as they recognize and fight antigens.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.