By Medicover Hospitals / 03 Mar 2021
Swollen lymph nodes or swollen glands are a sign that the body is fighting an infection. They usually improve on their own within 2 weeks. Glands in the immune system that usually get bigger in response to a bacterial or viral infection, but sudden swelling of many lymph nodes can indicate cancer.
- What is Swollen Lymph Nodes?
- When to visit a Doctor?
- Home Remedies
What is Swollen Lymph Nodes?
Swollen lymph nodes or lymphadenopathy are common and are actually a good thing. One of your body's natural reactions to illness or infection is the swelling of these lymph nodes the size of a pea or bean. This tells doctors that your body's healthy, robust immune system is working to kill off infections and invading viruses or bacteria.
Many people call them swollen glands, even though they really aren't glands, but part of your lymphatic system. One of the lesser known systems in your body, it's responsible for balancing your fluid levels.
Your swollen glands act as filters that help your body get rid of germs, cells, or other foreign objects that pass through your lymphatic fluid (a clear or slightly yellowish fluid made up of white blood cells, protein, and fat).
And when you think of swollen glands, you are probably thinking of swelling in your neck. But the lymph nodes in the groin, under the chin and underarms can also swell. You can even adjust them with your fingers.
You also have lymph nodes all over your body that you cannot feel. There is a network of around 600 of them in your:
- A swollen lymph node may be as small as the size of a pea and as large as the size of a cherry.
- Swollen lymph nodes can be painful to the touch, or they may hurt when you perform certain movements.
- Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or on either side of the neck can hurt when you turn your head a certain way or when you chew food. They can often be felt just by running your hand across your neck just below your jawline. They can be tender.
- Other symptoms that may be present with swollen lymph nodes are:
- runny nose
- If you experience any of these symptoms, or if you have painful swollen lymph nodes and no other symptoms, see your doctor. Swollen but non-tender lymph nodes can be a sign of a serious problem, such as cancer.
- Sometimes the swollen lymph node will become smaller as the other symptoms go away. If a lymph node is swollen and painful, or if the swelling lasts more than a couple of days, check with your physician.
Your doctor will start by asking you questions about your medical history and giving you a physical exam. They might get an idea of what causes your glands to swell based on their position in your body.
They may also recommend one of these tests to find out more about what is going on:
- Blood tests
- Ultrasound: High frequency sound waves are used to allow your doctor to see what is going on inside your body.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A strong magnet and radio waves are used to create detailed images of your organs and tissues.
- Biopsy: Lymph node tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.
- PET scan: examines chemical activity in certain parts of your body. This can help identify a variety of conditions like certain cancers, heart disease, and brain disorders. This is done less often.
- CT scan: A series of x-rays are taken from different angles and stitched together to form a more complete image.
Swollen lymph nodes usually return to normal after the body fights an infection.
If the swollen lymph nodes are caused by an underlying condition, your doctor will recommend treatment for those conditions which should reduce the swelling. This includes:
- Antibiotics if the swelling is caused by a bacterial infection.
- Chemotherapy or radiation therapy if the swollen nodes are caused by cancer.
When to visit a Doctor?
Some swollen lymph nodes return to normal when the underlying condition, such as a minor infection, improves. See your doctor if you are worried or if your swollen lymph nodes:
Seek medical attention immediately if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing.
- Have appeared for no apparent reason
- Continue to expand or be present for two to four weeks
- You feel hard or rubbery, or don't move when you press on it
- Are accompanied by persistent fever, night sweats, or unexplained weight loss
Home remedies to treat symptoms of swollen lymph nodes include:
- taking over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen
- applying a warm, moist compress on the affected area
- drinking lots of fluids, like water and fresh juices
- rest to help the body recover from illness
Frequently Asked Questions:
No, swollen lymph nodes are not fatal. On their own, they are just a sign that your immune system is fighting an infection or disease. However, in rare cases, swollen lymph nodes can indicate serious conditions, such as cancer of the lymphatic system (lymphoma), which could be fatal.
Swollen glands are a sign that the body is fighting an infection. They usually improve on their own within 2 weeks.
Swollen lymph nodes are usually a sign of infection and will fall out when you recover. However, sometimes they can have a more serious cause and may require medical attention.
Swollen lymph nodes - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2405630819300126
Inflammatory Swollen Lymph Nodes - https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/mrms/11/1/11_1_61/_article/-char/ja/
Diagnosis of Swollen Lymph Nodes - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6453856/