Swollen Lymph Nodes: Symptoms, Causes and Diagnosis
Swelling and pain in the lymph nodes can be worrisome if it affects your movements. Know when to wait and when to get medical advice.
Swelling and pain in the lymph nodes can be worrisome if it affects your movements. Pictures of swollen lymph nodes are likely to show a bump in an otherwise smooth area. You need to know if that bump is a swelling on glands. Know when to wait and when to get medical advice.
What to Know About Swollen Lymph Nodes?
Lymph nodes are part of a parallel circulatory system of your body, the lymphatic system. This system contributes to the immunity of the body. These lymph nodes are scattered all over the body connected via lymph vessels.
Some of them form regional clusters and would represent the drainage of a particular area. This means, lymph nodes present under the jawline or on the sides of the neck are connected to the mouth, ear and respiratory system whereas the lymph glands in the groin form the drainage of the lower abdomen, pubic parts and even legs.
Lymph nodes are usually not very noticeable until they have swelling. The nodes contain lymphocytes which are immune cells. Whenever these cells detect invaders in the fluid system, they capture these ‘enemies’ and destroy them. In this process, they too get destroyed. The body is forced to produce new fighter cells in these areas. This causes swelling. Thus, swelling indicates infection in the body.
Would the Doctor need Pictures of Swollen Lymph Nodes?
A swollen lymph node would look like a small bump at a place where there was nothing before. These may vary in size from small pea size to that of a grape. It may feel tender to touch and even painful.
Your doctor will touch and identify your swelling. They will not need pictures of swollen lymph nodes in the areas where they are easily visible. These areas are:
- The groin
- The armpits
- Around the neck
- Under the chin
- Behind the ears
Beyond these, there may be swellings on other glands such as around the head or at the base of the collar bone, which is not so prominent. In that case, your doctor may advise further examinations. These would include blood tests and pathological pictures of swollen lymph nodes such as X-rays, USG, CT scans and MRI scans. These image tests coupled with blood tests along with the related symptoms, help the medical expert identify the problem. They may suggest lymph node biopsy if they see fit.
Other symptoms accompanying swollen glands, that you must inform your doctor about are:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Night sweats
- Pain in the swollen gland
- Any other medical history
- Hard, fixed or fast-growing nodes
- Node-swellings all over the body
- Swellings continued for a few weeks
- Pus in the swelling
- Colour change in the swelling
- Sudden weight loss
- Swelling in lymph nodes of armpits or groin without any other symptoms
What are the Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes?
Various factors or conditions can make your lymph nodes swell. Let us look at them.
Viral, bacterial and parasitic infections:
- Common cold
- Teeth and gum infections
- Sinus problems
- Strep throat
- Staph infections
- Fungal infections
There are serious infections that will lead to quick swellings in the glands.
- Lyme disease
- Cat scratch disease
- Systemic lupus erythematosus
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Metastasised cancer
- Hodgkin disease
- Kaposi sarcoma
- Genetic lipid storage disease
- Transplant/graft rejection
- Injury in the lower limbs
Remedies for Swollen Lymph Nodes
In most cases, any swelling due to a common cold or mild infections will solve itself given some time. If that does not happen, you need to take some additional steps. Some home remedies that you can try, are:
- Applying warm and wet compress at the area.
- Having plenty of fluids – water and juices.
- OTC pain medicines – ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Plenty of rest to recover from the illness completely.
Your doctor may prescribe antivirals or antibiotics. They may ask you to take some anti-inflammatory medicines for quick relief. If the swelling doesn’t go down with these methods, a further detailed examination will be required. Follow your doctor’s advice closely.
Lead image via website/Peconic Bay Medical Center.