Lymph nodes are small glands present throughout the body, which is responsible for filtering lymph, the clear fluid which circulates via the lymphatic system that is similar to blood vessels. These glands become swollen in reaction to an infection and tumours in the region where they are located. The lymph nodes in the neck can become swollen in response to an upper respiratory tract infection like the common cold.
The lymph nodes store white blood cells (WBC), which are responsible for combatting invading pathogens. It holds a significant role in the body’s ability to ward off infections and forms an important part of the immune system. When bacteria, viruses and abnormal cell travels via the lymph channels, they are trapped at the node. When a person is affected by an infection or illness, the lymph nodes collect remains such as bacteria or dead cells before they can infect other areas of the system. The lymph nodes are situated throughout the body and found beneath the skin in many regions including armpits, under the jaw, either side of the neck, groin and above the collarbone.
Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes become swollen in response to any illness, infection or stress. It is an indication that the lymphatic system is working efficiently to ward off infection-causing agents from the system. Swollen lymph glands in the head and neck regions are caused due to illness like
In more severe conditions like immune system disorders or cancers can cause the lymph nodes throughout the body to swell include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Generally, cancers that spread in the body can lead to swelling of the lymph nodes. When cancer spreads from one region to the lymph node, life expectancy decreases. Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymphatic system which causes lymph nodes to swell.
Certain medications can lead to an allergic reaction which can also result in lymph nodes swelling.
Sexually transmitted diseases such as syphilis or gonorrhoea can also lead to swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin region.
Other causes of swollen lymph nodes include:
Swollen lymph nodes are an indication of a prevailing health issue in your body, when the lymph nodes swell, you may observe
Tenderness and pain
Swelling of the lymph nodes that may be the size of a pea or kidney bean or larger
Other signs and symptoms include:
Hard, rapidly growing nodes indicates a possible sign of cancer
The doctor will examine the patient and collects medical history to identity how swollen lymph nodes developed and also ask about any existing symptoms. The doctor will thoroughly assess the patient to check lymph nodes near the surface of the skin for size, tenderness, warmth and texture. Your health care provider will also all ask you to take certain blood works such as complete blood count (CBC) to confirm or exclude any underlying health problems and this test may also help the physician to evaluate overall health status and determine a range of disorders including infections and leukaemia.
A chest X-ray or CT scan of the affected regions may help the physician to determine the source of infection or find tumours.
Lymph node biopsy
The doctor may also perform a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, by taking a sample from a lymph node or complete lymph node for microscopic examination.
The main treatment modalities for swollen lymph nodes depends upon identifying the causative factor for infections. Usually, lymph nodes caused by a virus returns to normal soon after the viral infection settles. Antibiotics are prescribed to treat swollen lymph nodes caused by a bacterial infection.
Swollen lymph nodes caused due to immune disorder like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, the treatment is aimed at curing the underlying condition. While swollen nodes caused by cancer, the treatment is based upon the type of cancer, which include surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.