What Are Swollen Lymph Nodes?
The lymph nodes are glands that filter lymph fluid as it flows through them, so that viruses, bacteria and other components and microorganisms the body might find foreign are identified and then the white blood cells destroy them (Lymphocytes). They are shaped like a bean. 1, 2, 4,5
Normal Vs Swollen Lymph Nodes
Lymphatic System, Lymph Nodes of Human Body
Lymph nodes are found throughout the body through an elaborate network called the lymph system. The lymph system is a medium for lymph fluid, nutrients needed by the body and excretions between the body tissues and the bloodstream.
The lymph system is an important part of the immune system, the body’s defense system against disease. Lymph nodes are usually in clusters or single and vary in physical size. Some are very small and others large enough to be the size of a small fruit. Lymph nodes that are in clusters can be found in the groin area and under the armpits.
Lymphatic system is just a strategically designed large defense mechanism for the body against all kinds of possible infections e.g. bacteria, viruses etc.
The head of a human being and the neck has the highest concentration of lymph nodes.
When lymph nodes are swollen it means that something is wrong in the individual’s body. Bacteria and viruses are the main cause of swollen lymph nodes. Sometimes it is a sign of cancer but in very rare occasions. The symptoms of swollen lymph nodes are dependent on the underlying problem.
Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes
- Sore throat or tumor causes swelling of lymph nodes on the neck area and under the jaw.
- When one hand gets injured and the open wound gets infected, lymph nodes will appear under the armpits.
- Injuries on the foot or genitals will cause the lymph nodes at the groin area to swell up.
- Tumor/cancerous growth.
- Lymph nodes commonly get swollen around the groin area and under the armpits and sometimes around the neck under beneath the years (not common) in cause of an infection in the head.
- Viral illnessescause the swollen lymph nodes in multiple places. This is called lymphadenopathy.
- Vaccinations from measles and rubella trigger the lymph nodes to swell up since foreign objects are introduced to the body.
- Strep throat and Lyme disease and other bacterial infections within that category cause the lymph nodes to swell
- Phenytoin, a drug commonly used in treating seizures causes swollen lymph nodes as one of the side effects.
- STDs like Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) caused by human immunodeficiency virus, syphilis which is commonly transmitted through sexual intercourse with an infected person.
- Ear infections
Swollen Lymph Nodes in Axilla, Groin, Neck
- A swelling may appear where the lymph nodes may be visible e.g. the armpits or the groin area especially if the infection causing the swelling is the kind that has affected the person’s leg or arm.
- A light painful tenderness on the swollen area.
- Sore throat, fever and sometimes runny nose. This happens when the respiratory system has been infected.
- HIV, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis may cause lymph nodes to swell throughout the body.
- Weight loss
- Night sweats.1,2,3
Medical history of the affected patient is taken into account. A physical examination to check the size of the lymph is performed by the doctor and also to identify the regions of the body affected. This helps the doctor narrow down to the reason causing the swelling.
Blood test is then done to check any existing hormonal disorders. This always comes after the physical check-up
In some cases, an imaging test is done to understand the nature of the swelling. This is done using CT scans an X rays depending on the state of the patient and the nature of infection.
Biopsy can also be done in situations that really require it. Sometimes the entire node may be removed and examined in detail.3
Swollen node glands have a tendency to disappear on as the body successfully defends itself because usually the situation is not so dire.
Since infections are caused by bacteria and virus, antibiotics and antiviral medicals are very effective. The swelling starts to subside as the infected area gets better after treatment.
When the swollen lymph nodes get painful an over the counter pain reliever or a warm wet compress can be helpful in helping make the patient feel better.
When whatever is causing the swelling of the lymph nodes is not addressed an abscess is formed which will lead for requirement for an antibiotic treatment. An abscess is a formation of pus at a specific point on a body which may require to be drained. This consists of dead tissue, foreign element, bacteria, fluid and white blood cells.
Infection of the bloodstream can occur which is a dangerous situation because it can grow and spread and can occur at any part of the human body. This condition is called sepsis. It can lead to organ failure and sometimes cause death. It can be treated using intravenous antibiotics but the patient must be hospitalized by the time the infection in his body reaches this level. The medical term for bloodstream infection is called bacteremia.
When your lymph nodes seem to exist without any real reason or you are unable to know why they exist you must see a doctor for a checkup. In some situations, the lymph nodes may appear and keep on growing with no signs of subsiding. This may persist in two to four weeks down the line. It is not normal and the affected individual must seek medical advice.
If the lymph nodes feel hard or immobile when pressed on or pushed something is wrong and the affected person should see a physician for help. Fever may continue for a while or keep getting heightened and the individual in question may realize his body weight is decreasing.
Something swallowing and breathing may be difficult. Situations such as these need to be attended to in urgency and not like it is when lymph nodes gets swollen for common reasons that are deemed not serious. Whenever an injury occurs, all necessary procedure prevent infections must be observed during treatment whether at home or work.
- Swollen lymph nodes overview, symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/
- Swollen lymph nodes Symptoms, causes and treatment. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/tc/swollen-lymph-nodes-topic-overview#1
- Swollen lymph nodes: Symptoms, causes, test and treatment. http://www.healthline.com/health/swollen-lymph-nodes#4
- Swollen lymph nodes in neck and other locations. www.medicinenet.com/swollen-lymph-nodes/article.com
- Swollen lymph nodes. www.emedicinehealth.com
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