In most cases, swollen glands in the neck denote enlarged lymph nodes. Such swelling may also indicate other conditions, like inflammation of the salivary gland or an enlarged thyroid. The exact cause can be inferred from the location and nature of swelling. However, a proper diagnosis is always necessary. It has been observed that an enlarged salivary gland can be felt in the upper part of the neck, just below the ear and under the jaw. If it is an enlarged thyroid gland, then the swelling will be on the lowest part of the neck, near the Adam's apple.
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands that are located in different parts of the neck. In fact, these glands can be found on other body parts too. They can be felt, only when they get enlarged. As far as the neck is concerned, the lymph glands are located beneath the lower jaw, below the chin, in the nape of the neck, and in the hollow of the collarbones. These glands can also be found around the ears. Usually, swollen lymph nodes in the neck indicate some infection or disease.
Why Do Lymph Glands Swell
The lymphatic system of the body carries lymph fluid through lymph channels. These lymph channels are interspersed with lymph nodes that filter the lymph fluid; and trap bacteria, virus, other pathogens, and harmful substances, to be destroyed later by the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells). While it is not possible to feel all the lymph nodes; those in the armpits, neck, and groin can be felt lightly.
The most common causes of lymph node swelling in the neck, are common cold, strep throat, injury, tonsillitis, infection of the mouth, or any cut or bite near a lymph node. Tuberculosis, lupus, inflammation of epiglottis, syphilis, HIV/AIDS; infection of the sinuses, skin or ears, etc., can also cause swelling of lymph nodes. It has also been observed that cancer in the mouth or larynx, leukemia, and lymphoma, can also contribute to the condition.
Symptoms and Treatment
Swollen lymph nodes can be among the first signs of bodily defense against diseases. Some people may experience painful swollen glands in the neck, due to conditions, like injuries. In some chronic cases, like bacterial infections; the lymph glands may become enlarged, firm, hard, and tender. Sometimes, the skin may also redden due to the underlying swollen lymph node. Most of the swollen lymph glands disappear, as the infection subsides with adequate treatment. In kids, it may take some time for the swollen lymph nodes to get back to normal. If the swollen glands are not accompanied with other symptoms; or if the swelling persists for more than a month, you have to consult a doctor to find out the exact cause.
In most cases, treatment is aimed at curing the underlying cause. Once the infection is treated, the swollen glands disappear. The doctor may suggest a biopsy, if he/she suspects cancer as the underlying cause. In most cases, swollen glands in the neck is a sign of some infection or disease. It can be lymphadenopathy, a localized or generalized swelling of lymph glands in the body. Swollen lymph nodes all over the body or in any particular location can be due to various reasons, like viral or bacterial infections, or side effects of certain medication.