What are the causes of lymph node swelling? how to treat swollen lymph nodes? It is common to find lymph node swelling in a person during physical examinations in health institutions. Diseases caused by infection with various microorganisms are examples of benign problems of lymph node enlargement, however, since rheumatic diseases or life-threatening cancers may cause lymph node swelling, the detection of this swelling should not be neglected. In this article, we’ll explain the causes and symptoms of swollen lymph nodes. how to treat swollen lymph nodes?
What is a lymph node?
In the human body, similar to the blood circulation, there is the lymphatic system, which is another circulatory network that is responsible for the transport of fatty substances and the body’s defense. There are lymph nodes that work as a station and checkpoint on the lymph vessels that provide lymphatic circulation.
Normal lymph nodes (nodes) are encapsulated and round-shaped tissues with a diameter of 1-15 mm. They are often found in groups along lymph vessels and line up to form structures that look like chains.
Lymph nodes have the ability to recognize foreign substances that do not belong to the body. Antigen molecules form the basis of the stimulation of immunity. Antigens and various foreign substances that indicate the presence of microorganisms in the body reach the lymph nodes through the lymph vessels and are perceived by the defense cells. Later, the immune system activates the defense mechanisms to create the necessary response to this stimulus, and this microorganism and foreign substances are eliminated.
Causes of lymph node swelling:
1) Infection: There is a dense network of blood vessels in the lymph nodes. The white blood cells here kill the microorganisms carried in the lymph fluid. If the patient is infected, there is a large number of viruses or bacteria in their body. The lymph nodes swell as the number of white blood cells and their activity increases. Lymph node swelling is often caused by infections. Some infections that cause lymph node swelling:
Colds and flu, gingivitis, dental abscesses, mouth sores and aphthae, cat scratch disease, chronic ear inflammation, glandular fever, measles, streptococcal sore throat, syphilis, tonsillitis
Infection-induced lymph node swelling is often painful. If the inflamed area is a limited area, the closest lymph node swells. Jaw inflammation in the mouth; That is why the swelling of the neck in inflammations in the ears.
2) Lymphoma: Cancer or tumor occurring anywhere in the body can swell the lymph nodes. Sometimes, the lymph node itself develops a tumor. This disease is called lymphoma. In this case, lymph nodes swell.
3) Tumor: When a tumor occurs in any part of the body, it begins to swell the lymph nodes, starting from the closest to it. This is the reason to check the armpit to look for breast tumors in women. The swelling of the lymph node is not definitive evidence for the presence of a tumor, nor does it suggest that it is benign or malignant, even if there is a tumor. Tumor-induced lymph node swelling is generally painless. In some cases, the swollen lymph node may need to be removed.
4) Other Causes
Other conditions that cause lymph node swelling:
- Drug allergy
- Joint inflammation
- Foreign material entry into the body
Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes
It is easy to spot the lumps that usually form; However, in order to keep your calm, it is useful to know the other symptoms. And if you come across any of these on your body, we recommend that you talk to your doctor.
- If you notice a lump in your neck, collarbone, armpit, or groin, it could be related to swollen lymph nodes. Still, we would like to underline that; If this lump is in your collarbone, it could be something more serious. Therefore, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.
- This condition can be a symptom of Hodgkin’s disease, and recovery is often possible if it can be treated quickly.
- Sometimes fever may accompany a swollen lymph node. You may also experience night sweats.
- In some cases, swollen lymph nodes can be painful. We would also like to point out that; “If it doesn’t hurt, it’s a bad thing; If it hurts, it’s just infection ”is a completely false belief. Therefore, the best move you can do is to see a specialist and get it diagnosed.
Where are the lymph nodes located?
There are nearly 600 lymph nodes in the human body. Therefore, they show a wide distribution in the body:
- The back of the head
- Front and back of the ear
- Front and back of the neck
- Under the chin
- In the upper part of the collarbone
- Under the armpits
- Around the elbows
- In the groin
- Around the knee
At the same time, lymph nodes are located deeper in the middle of the chest and in the abdomen.
Why do lymph nodes (nodes) swell?
In the case of viral diseases such as chickenpox and shingles caused by infectious mononucleosis caused by EBV (Epstein Barr Virus) or viruses in the herpetic virus family, enlargement of lymph nodes may develop. In an AIDS clinic caused by HIV, lymph node enlargements occur throughout the body. Due to throat infections caused by bacteria called streptococci in the respiratory tract, enlargement of lymph nodes in the lower jaw and neck region may occur.
Enlargement of lymph nodes may occur as a result of lymphoma, leukemia, and cancers occurring in other organs of the body spreading to lymph nodes.
Rheumatic diseases, autoimmune diseases caused by the attack of the defense cells of the person’s own tissues and organs; Storage diseases, which refer to problems related to the preservation of carbohydrate and fatty nutrients in the body, may occur in lymph nodes due to exposure to various drugs and toxic substances.
There is a relationship between the localization of the large lymph nodes in certain parts of the body and some diseases. Lymph node enlargement is mostly located in the head & neck region. Growths in the head and neck area are usually caused by a viral respiratory infection. Growths on the collarbone are warning signs for malignant diseases. Growth in the lymph nodes in the anterior armpit is important for breast cancer. One of the areas where lymph node enlargement is most common is the area around the groin. Due to various infections, lymph nodes in the groin area are 2 cm. and can reach larger sizes.
When swelling occurs in 2 or more lymph nodes located in different body parts, this is called generalized lymph node enlargement. Care should be taken in terms of extensive lymph node enlargement, as it is associated with more serious conditions than localized growths in a region.
Apart from the location of lymph node growths, their size, pain, and tenderness, or consistency can guide the underlying cause.
- Considering the size of lymph nodes, in adult individuals, it is usually 1 cm. growths up to the diameter are considered normal. While this border is reduced to 0.5 cm around the elbow, it is 1.5-2 cm in the groin area. lymph nodes with a diameter are considered normal. In children, the limit value, which is generally considered to be disease-related, is 2 cm. lymph nodes with a diameter.
- A rubber-like consistency of the growing lymph node may be a symptom of lymphoma disease. While the growths due to infection have a softer consistency, the hard structure of the enlarged lymph node may indicate underlying cancer.
- Lymph nodes are encapsulated tissues. Their capsules stretch as a result of their growth and pain may occur. The source of pain is often an inflammatory process. Findings such as warmth or redness around the swollen gland are signs that support the underlying cause of infection.
- The adherence of the growing lymph node to the surrounding tissues and restriction of its movement may occur due to the spread of underlying cancer to the lymph node.
Which diagnostic methods are used in the growing lymph node?
During the physical examination, the physician evaluates the characteristics of the enlarged lymph node. Whether it is in the whole or in a single region of the body, its size, the feeling of redness or warmth around it, its sensitivity, consistency, and mobility are evaluated.
Laboratory tests of the microorganism that are thought to be the cause of lymph node enlargement, which are thought to be caused by a complete blood count, sedimentation (ESR), liver and kidney functions, and a viral or bacterial factor, may be requested to clarify the underlying disease.
In order to examine the enlarged lymph nodes detected after the physical examination and laboratory tests performed by the physician, ultrasonography can be used first among imaging methods. Chest radiography can be performed in suspicious cases of chest diseases. Computed tomography and positron emission tomography (PET / CT) are other imaging methods that can be used to determine the distribution of enlarged lymph nodes in the body.
In the presence of abnormal lymph node findings and signs supporting malignant disease, a biopsy can be performed to clarify the underlying disease. The biopsy procedure performed on lymph nodes is performed excisional. The term excisional means the complete removal of the suspected lymph node while preserving its integrity, and the largest lymph node is usually selected for this procedure. Microscopically, pathological and histological examination is performed on the removed lymph node.
How to treat swollen lymph nodes?
how to treat swollen lymph nodes? The underlying disease determines the course of the disease and the choice of treatment in lymph node enlargement. Regional growths caused by viral or bacterial infections may regress after supportive therapy or drug use. In general, regional growths have a better course than growths throughout the body. If the swollen lymph nodes are sensitive and painful, applying a hot compress to that area can provide relief from the pain. Rest and painkillers used with the doctor’s knowledge are other options that can be used to control symptoms.
Lymph nodes are swollen due to viral diseases usually regress to normal size after the disease is over. Antibiotics are used to treat growths caused by bacterial causes.
If it is determined that lymph node enlargement is caused by the drugs used, assistance should be sought from the relevant department to create an alternative to the current treatment, if possible.
While treatment for the underlying cause is planned for rheumatic diseases caused by problems in the immune system, surgical interventions, chemotherapy or radiotherapy applications can be applied to treat the disease in lymph nodes enlarged due to cancer.
Because of the wide range of causes of lymph node enlargement detected in the body, ranging from simple infections to life-threatening cancers, it is recommended to consult health institutions as soon as possible. If there is no underlying cause, lymph node enlargement continues or if it is the same size for more than 1 month, accompanying fever, night sweats and weight loss are alarm symptoms that require referral to healthcare institutions.
How to treat swollen lymph nodes?
- Infection Treatment If the
cause of lymph node swelling is an infection, fighting with the relevant bacteria or virus will allow the lymph node to descend. Your doctor will prescribe the necessary antibiotic or antiviral medication after the examination. Pain relievers and aspirin work to reduce pain and inflammation. Other classical infection-fighting methods also accelerate the retraction of the swab gland to normal sizes.
- Cancer Treatment If the
cause of lymph node swelling is cancer or a benign tumor, the lymph node will not descend until that tumor is removed or the cancer is treated. In necessary cases, lymph nodes can be descended with chemotherapy treatment. In these cases, the doctor’s opinion should be respected.
The page content is for informational purposes only. Items containing information about therapeutic health services are not included in the page content. Consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.
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- Merck Manuals. Lymphadenopathy. (https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/lymphatic-disorders/lymphadenopathy) Accessed 11/18/2021.
- American Cancer Society. Lymph Nodes and Cancer. (https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/lymph-nodes-and-cancer.html) Accessed 11/18/2021.
- NHS. Swollen Glands. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/swollen-glands/) Accessed 11/18/2021.
- American Family Physician. Unexplained Lymphadenopathy: Evaluation and Differential Diagnosis. (https://www.aafp.org/afp/2016/1201/p896.html) Accessed 11/18/2021.