Lymph nodes are part of the lymph system which carries nutrients, fluids and waste material between the blood tissues and arteries. The lymph nodes filter fluids as it flows through them and absorb virus, bacteria and other foreign substances, which are then destroyed by a white blood cell called lymphocytes.
Cause of Swollen Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes often swell in a location where an injury, infection or tumor develops. Few of the causes of swollen lymph nodes are:
- Glands in the armpit, also known as axillary lymph nodes, can swell due to any injury or infection to the arm or the hand. [Breast cancer or lymphoma can also cause swollen axillary lymph nodes]
- The lymph nodes in the groin, also known as inguinal or femoral lymph nodes, can swell due to any injury or infection in the leg, groin, foot or genitals. [Testicular cancer, lymphoma or melanoma can also cause swollen inguinal lymph nodes]
- The glands on the side of the neck, behind the ears or under the jaw can swell due to cold or sore throat. Glands can also swell due to any infection in the mouth, neck or head. It can also develop due to any cut or bite.
- Glands above the collarbone, also known as supraclavicular lymph nodes, can swell due to any tumor or infection in the lungs, neck, or abdomen.
Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen Lymph nodes can be found anywhere in the body and is of size of a pea, or kidney bean, or even larger than that.
Depending on the cause, few of the symptoms of swollen lymph nodes are:
- Runny nose, sore throat, fever and other signs of upper respiratory infection.
- Swollen limb which can be due to swelling in a lymph node present too far under the skin to feel.
- Hardened, fixed and rapid growing nodes can indicate a tumor.
- Night sweats
- General swollen lymph nodes throughout the body which indicate an infection such as HIV, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Treatment of Swollen Lymph Nodes
The treatment of swollen lymph nodes depends on the cause of its occurrence. A lymph node that is growing rapidly over 2-3 days has different treatment procedure than the node that is growing over a few months. Hence, it is important to talk to a doctor immediately about the growth of the node. This can help establish a proper diagnosis and treatment.
A standard treatment for swollen lymph nodes includes pain reliever and medication. Warm compresses and elevation can also help reduce swelling.
An antibiotic or antiviral medication can be prescribed by a doctor to treat the swelling, if the cause is infection. For swelling due to cancer, the treatment may involve surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.