Swollen lymph nodes are signs of infection in the body. An infection in the upper respiratory tract or in the mouth can cause swelling in lymph nodes of the neck region. They can vary in size, from small as a pea to as large as a cherry. Major symptoms involve fever, sore throat and pain in the neck. The doctor may recommend certain tests to identify the exact cause of infection and provide treatment to the patient as per the diagnosis.
Swollen Lymph Nodes Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a component of immune system. Lymph nodes are small cluster of lymphocytic cells which produce antibodies and macrophages which digest the debris and infectious agents in the body. These are major sites where foreign substances and infectious agents interact with cells of the immune system. Swollen lymph nodes indicate signs of infection in the body.
Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes There are a large number of causes due to which lymph nodes of neck may enlarge. These include:
Infection An infection in the body can lead to an increase in white blood cells concentration and cause swelling in lymph nodes of the neck. This infection can be due any bacterial, fungal or viral species.
Inflammation Inflammation in a given region of lymph node may occur due to an infection or due to an immune disorder such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. This causes lymph nodes to swell throughout the body.
Cancer Infiltration with malignant cells brought along with the flowing lymph to the lymph node causes a swollen lump node. It can also lead to a lump on back of neck. It majorly occurs due to uncontrolled multiplication of malignant lymphocytic cells.
Other common causes of swollen lymph nodes include:
Allergic reactions due to medication
Cat scratch fever
Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes The most common symptoms experienced during swollen lymph nodes involve:
They can be painful while touching or moving the neck or head
Pain can be experienced during chewing and swallowing of food
Diagnosis of Swollen Lymph Nodes The lymph nodes which are rapidly growing over the past 2 or 3 days may have different causes and require different treatment than those which have a generalized swelling over a past few months. When you visit a doctor with associated symptoms, the doctor may carry out the following steps:
Your doctor will ask about the associated symptoms and carry out a physical examination of your neck
Depending upon your condition, the doctor may perform certain blood tests
The doctor may carry out imagining tests such as X-ray or MRI scan
A biopsy of the lymph node may be carried out or a portion of the lymph node may be removed for examination. This involves examination of the tissue under a microscope to identify the cause of swelling. It is carried out by a pathologist.
Treatment of Swollen Lymph Nodes In some cases, lymph nodes may reduce on their own and may not require any medical treatment. They can be treated by any of these ways:
The doctor may recommend certain pain killers and analgesic such as ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen. This will help reduce pain and inflammation in the neck.
Doctor may prescribe certain antibiotics or antiviral medication to reduce the infection in lymph nodes
Home remedies such as compresses and elevation may help reduce and resolve swelling.
If there is a localized sack of infection on the neck, it should be drained by cutting open the skin. It involves draining of the infected fluids and then filling the opening with packing.
If the swelling occurred due to malignancy, the treatment may involve surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.
If swelling in lymph node occurred due to an immune disorder, then the doctor may prescribe medication to help cure the disease.
Mohd Salman, is a medical science professional and is associated with DiseaseFix as a content guide and researcher. DiseaseFix develops health information modules for patients and provides a unique platform to allow access of reliable information of a variety of types for diseases.