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Swollen Lymph Nodes in Groin

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands that are spread throughout the body. The swelling of the lymph nodes indicates an underlying problem. The most common cause for swollen lymph nodes in the groin and other parts of the body is an infection.
Marian K
Last Updated: Apr 5, 2018
An essential part of the immune system, lymph nodes are small bean-shaped glands that are responsible for filtering foreign substances like infectious particles and debris from the lymphatic fluid. The cells in the lymph nodes, also known as lymphocytes, produce infection-fighting antibodies, while the microphages destroy the debris in the lymphatic fluid. The lymph nodes are present in many parts of the human body, including the neck, behind the ears, jaws, chin, armpits, and the groin area. Lymph nodes in the groin are also referred to as inguinal lymph nodes.

Due to its function in the human body as the site where the immune system fights against infections and foreign bodies, the lymph nodes are prone to swelling and inflammation. Swollen lymph nodes in the groin are medically termed as inguinal lymphadenitis. In majority of cases, the swelling in the lymph nodes is caused by some sort of an infection or injury. In rare cases, however, it might also be caused by a certain malignancy.

Location of the Inguinal Nodes

The lymph nodes in the groin are located in the crease that extends from the groin to the leg. They are classified as superficial inguinal nodes and deep inguinal nodes. Found in the crease between the upper leg and lower pelvic area, the deep inguinal nodes are also known as femoral lymph nodes. There are around three to five of these nodes, among which the lymph node under the inguinal ligament which sits superior to the other nodes is known as the Cloquet's node.

Along with the deep inguinal nodes, there are around ten superficial inguinal nodes which are present beneath the hip joints and inside the buttocks. These superficial nodes receive lymphatic fluid from the lower abdominal wall, lower anal canal, vagina, penis, scrotum, vulva, the gluteal region and the perineum. It then drains the lymphatic fluid to the deep inguinal nodes.

Causes of Swollen Inguinal Nodes
The lymph nodes in the groin can get swollen or enlarged due to various factors, primary among which are injuries and infections. The swelling may be firm and hard or soft to touch. It can also be painful and may restrict movement. When the inguinal lymphadenopathy is more than 1.5 cm, then it is considered as abnormal. Here is a list of the various causes related to swollen lymph nodes.

Bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections in the groin, genitals, foot or legs, are the most common causes of swollen lymph nodes in the groin. The infection especially caused by bacteria will be accompanied by symptoms such as red rashes, pain and swelling in the affected area. Lymphangitis is an inflammation of the lymphatic channels caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, which can enter the skin through a wound or an insect bite. This infection can lead to swelling with skin redness, warmth and fever. Viral infections like glandular fever that affects the entire body can lead to a swelling in the lymph glands in the groin as well. Skin infections like boils, cellulitis, and skin abscesses can also lead to swelling in the groin lymph nodes.

Sexually Transmitted Infections
Sexually transmitted diseases like genital herpes, syphilis, chlamydia, gonorrhea and warts can lead to a swelling in the lymph nodes. When these infections affect the pelvic area, they also lead to a swelling in the lymph nodes lying adjacent to it.

Injuries and trauma to the legs, groin area or the foot can affect the lymph nodes. Injuries to the genital area is the most common cause of inguinal nodes swelling. As the injury starts to heal, you will find a significant decrease in the swelling of the lymph nodes as well. However, when the swelling does not subside on its own, then it is important to see a doctor.

A cancer of the lymphatic system, lymphoma can affect the groin lymph nodes. When the lymphocytes in the nodes undergo certain malignant changes and start multiplying rapidly, they can create malignant tumors that enlarge the lymph nodes. Unlike the swelling caused by injuries or infections, the swelling of the lymph nodes caused by lymphoma is painless. Lumps in the groin can also be caused by malignant tumors that spread from other parts affected by cancer, like the testicles. If the painless swelling in the lymph nodes is accompanied by symptoms like unexplained weight loss, heavy sweating, fever and itching, then it might be advisable to consult a doctor.

Hydroceles are fluid-filled sacs that are present in the scrotum, and are extremely common in infants. It occurs when the tube from which the testicles descend from the abdomen to the scrotum does not close. This leads to drainage of fluid from the abdomen to the scrotum, resulting in swelling around the scrotum and the lymph nodes. Although it is rare in adults, but an injury or surgery in the groin area or scrotum can lead to a hydrocele later in life as well. In majority of the cases, these are painless and do not need treatment. In case the hydrocele gets larger or infected, then aspiration or surgery might be needed.

Inguinal Hernia
When there is a protrusion of the soft tissue of the intestines through a weak part in the abdominal wall, it is known as inguinal hernia. Along with the swelling in the lymph nodes, the common symptoms include a bulge in the groin, burning sensation, aching, weakness, and pressure in the affected part. In certain cases, it can even cause severe complications, wherein the intestines can slide through the hernias and get trapped there.

Reaction to drugs like penicillin sulfa drugs or iodine, benign cysts and fatty growths or lipomas are some other factors that contribute to swelling in the lymph nodes.

In majority of the cases, the swelling subsides on its own. However, when it does not do so even after an extended period of time, the medical practitioner will try to ascertain the underlying cause of the problem, and then provide appropriate treatment. In case of bacterial infections, antibiotics are prescribed, while in case of inguinal hernia, surgery is the only option. In case the doctor suspects lymphoma, then a biopsy might be done. If one identifies swollen lymph nodes in the groin with symptoms like red, tender, hard nodes, along with fever, night sweats or weight loss, then seek medical help immediately.

Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for professional medical advice.