Lymph nodes, which are bean-shaped glands that are present throughout the body, are a part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system also consists of a network of lymphatic ducts and vessels, lymphoid tissues, and organs. While the lymphatic vessels facilitate the passage of lymph, the lymph nodes trap and filter the foreign substances and pathogens from the lymph. The cells found in these glands are responsible for the production of antibodies and macrophages that fight infectious particles and harmful foreign bodies. Thus, the lymph glands perform an important function of protecting the body against infections and disease. However, these glands can swell up as a result of an infection.
Swollen Lymph Nodes
While the lymph nodes are present in various parts of the body, the clusters of lymph nodes can be felt when they swell up. Swollen nodes can be felt around the neck, chin, groin, armpits and behind the ears. Besides the lymph nodes, clumps of lymphoid tissue called tonsils are also present on either side of the throat. Other glands that are located in the throat include salivary glands, thyroid glands and parathyroid glands. Let's learn about the circumstances under which the glands in the throat may swell up.
InfectionsOne of the most common and major cause of swollen lymph glands in throat is an infection. The infection could either be bacterial or viral. Infections occur due to the rapid multiplication of white blood cells in the lymph node, which is in response to stimulation by a pathogen or a foreign body that the immune system considers to be a threat. Infections like a common cold, strep throat, tonsillitis, laryngitis and pharyngitis can cause the glands in the throat to swell up.
Treatment: In case of infections, the treatment usually involves the use of certain drugs. Antibiotics and antiviral drugs are recommended for the treatment of bacterial and viral infections respectively. Application of warm compresses and massaging the swollen lymph node using your fingertips in light circular motions may prove beneficial.
CancerCancer is a disease that is characterized by development of a malignant growth or tumor due to uncontrolled and abnormal cell division. The lymph nodes in the throat can swell up in case of cancer of the mouth, larynx and throat. Swollen glands may or may not be painful, depending upon the type and stage of cancer.
Treatment: Cancer requires extensive treatment. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapies and surgery are some of the treatment options.
Dental ProblemsGlands in the throat can also swell up due to dental problems. For instance, lymph glands can swell up due to an impacted wisdom tooth or an abscessed tooth. Gum disease can also cause the glands in the throat to swell up.
Treatment: The treatment will vary depending on the nature of the problem. In case of an impacted tooth, extraction of the tooth may be recommended. Root canal treatment can also be recommended for an abscessed tooth. In case of an infection, antibiotics and painkillers are usually prescribed.
GoiterGoiter is a medical condition that is characterized by swelling of the thyroid gland. It is mainly caused as a result of iodine deficiency in the body. The swelling is quite apparent and the condition can be easily diagnosed.
Treatment: Swelling due to goiter can be treated by providing the body with the required amount of iodine and inflammation can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. In severe cases, surgical removal of the thyroid gland or a part of it may be suggested.
Salivary Gland InfectionsParotid glands, submandibular glands, and sublingual glands are the three major salivary glands that secrete saliva into the mouth. Obstruction to the parotid and submandibular glands due to the formation of sialoliths (salivary stones) can cause the saliva to back up into the gland, thereby causing the glands to swell up. Infection of the parotid gland can also cause pain. At times, infection can spread from infected lymph nodes. Enlargement of the salivary glands could be a sign of Sjögren's syndrome or salivary gland tumors.
Treatment: The treatment will depend on the underlying cause. In case of a bacterial infection, the treatment would involve use of antibiotics. In case of tumors, the removal of the growth may be recommended along with drug therapy. Good oral hygiene is necessary to avert bacterial infections.
Accurate diagnosis of the cause is essential for proper treatment of swollen glands in the throat. It is therefore essential to seek medical help if the swelling doesn't subside soon.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.