Lymphadenopathy

Lymph node check up

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are small rounded glands that are found in various parts of the body. They are a part of the lymphatic system that is responsible for fighting off infections and diseases. The main function of lymph nodes is to house white blood cells that are responsible for fighting infection.

Human bodies have network lymph nodes and lymph vessels. This network, which is a part of the body’s immune system, is responsible for carrying fluid, waste material, pathogens that are in tissues outside the bloodstream.  There are hundreds of lymph nodes present in the body. Each one is responsible for filtering the fluid and substances picked up by the lymph vessels. These trapped foreign substances are then destroyed by special white blood cells called lymphocytes.

What is lymphadenopathy?

When the body has a problem, like an infection, injury or cancer, the group of lymph nodes in that area may swell up in response. This happens due to the nodes working out to filter out the bad cells. The swollen lymph nodes that are easily noticeable are present in the neck, groin, and underarms. Usually, only one section swells up at a time. However, if more than one area of lymph nodes are swollen, it may be an indication of certain infections (chickenpox or strep throat), immune system diseases or cancer.

Viral infections and can cause lymph nodes to double in size. They usually return to their normal size in 2 to 4 weeks.

Causes

Lymphadenopathy can happen due to many reasons including

Infections

A viral infection (such as a cold or flu) is usually the cause behind swollen lymph nodes. Other infections that may cause lymphadenopathy are

  • Strep throat
  • Mononucleosis
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Ear infections
  • Severe hay fever
  • Skin or wound infections

When fighting a viral infection, lymph nodes usually swell to 1/2 to 1 inch across. If they have mild tenderness, then it is a sign that it is successfully fighting an infection. When fighting a bacterial infection, lymph nodes usually swell more than 1 inch across. They are very tender. If the nodes are more than 2 inches across, it is an indication that has not been successful in containing the infection.

Immune and autoimmune disorders

Certain disorders of the immune system like AIDS and autoimmune disease (rheumatoid arthritis or lupus) can cause enlarged lymph nodes.

Insect bites

The bites of certain insects like hornets, spiders may cause the lymph nodes to swell up.

Tooth abscesses

A tooth abscess refers to a collection of pus that is usually due to a bacterial infection. There are different types of tooth abscesses. However, the common ones are

  • Periapical abscess: This occurs at the tip of the affected tooth’s roots.
  • Periodontal abscess: This occurs at on the gum next to the root of the affected tooth
  • Gingival abscess: This occurs only on the gums.

One of the main symptoms of a tooth abscess is swollen lymph nodes in the neck, under the jaw

Certain medications

Some medications like anti-seizure and anti-malarial drugs also sometimes cause swollen lymph nodes. Allergic reactions to medications can also result in swollen lymph nodes.

Cancer

Cancer may be one of the causes of lymph node swelling but this does not mean that all lymph node swelling indicates cancer.  Two types of cancers that can cause lymph node swelling include lymphoma and leukemia.

Lymphoma – This is a type of cancer that is related to the immune system.  Lymphoma affects the cells of the immune system called lymphocytes present in various parts of the body such as the spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow, thymus, etc.  When lymphoma affects these lymphocytes, it changes their chemical composition.  This leads to abnormal growth of lymphocytes which gets out of control.

Some of the common symptoms associated with this condition include swelling and pain associated with lymph nodes present in the groin, neck, and armpits.  It can also cause symptoms of fever, lethargy, night sweats, weight loss, etc.  The prognosis for patients affected with lymphoma decreases when it affects the bone marrow.

Leukemia – This is a type of cancer affecting the bone marrow and the lymphatic system.  Leukemia can affect both children and adults.  There are various types of leukemia and usually affects the white blood cells.  When the DNA of the white blood cells is altered, it can lead to the damage of white blood cells.

This causes the white blood cells to divide and multiply rapidly which gets out of control.  Some of the common symptoms of leukemia include easy bruising, regular bouts of infection, headache, lethargy, weight loss, etc.  This type of cancer is considered to yield and low prognosis when the functioning of bone marrow is directly affected.

Different sites of lymphadenopathy and their meaning

Lymph node check upLymph nodes usually swell up when an area near it is injured, infected or malignant. The swelling of different lymph nodes may be an indication of different problems.

  • If the swelling is located on either side of the neck, just below the jaw, it may be an indication of a cold, flu or sore throat. These nodes also swell up when you have an injury or cancer near that area.
  • If the swelling is located in the armpits, it may be due to an injury or infection in the arm or hand. In rare cases, the swelling in this region may be due to lymphoma (breast cancer).
  • If the swelling is located in the groin, it may be due to an injury or infection in the foot, leg, groin or genitals. Sometimes, testicular cancer, lymphoma, or melanoma may cause swelling in this area.
  • If the swelling is located above the collarbone, it may be due to an infection or tumor in the lungs, breasts, neck, or abdomen.

Cancer in the lymph nodes

Cancer usually appears in the lymph nodes in 2 ways

  • It can originate in the lymph nodes. Cancer of the lymph nodes is known as lymphoma
  • It can spread to the lymph nodes from another part of the body.

How does cancer spread to the lymph nodes?

Cancer can spread from where it started (the primary site) to other parts of the body. Cancer may form in any part of the body. When the malignant cells break away from the source, they travel to other parts of the body via the bloodstream or the lymph system. When they travel via the bloodstream, they reach other organs. When they travel via the lymph system, they reach the lymph nodes.

Most of these malignant cells usually die or are killed off by the immune system. However, sometimes, some cells escape and start growing in a new area. This is called metastasis. lymph nodes near the tumor are the ones that are usually affected.

How is cancer in lymph nodes detected?

Normal lymph nodes are tiny and can be hard to find, but when there’s infection, inflammation, or cancer, the nodes can get larger. Those near the body’s surface often get big enough to feel with your fingers, and some can even be seen. But if there are only a few cancer cells in a lymph node, it may look and feel normal. In that case, the doctor must check for cancer by removing all or part of the lymph node.

When a surgeon operates to remove primary cancer, one or more of the nearby (regional) lymph nodes may be removed as well. Removal of one lymph node is called a biopsy. When many lymph nodes are removed, it’s called lymph node sampling or lymph node dissection. When cancer has spread to lymph nodes, there’s a higher risk that cancer might come back after surgery. This information helps the doctor decide whether more treatment, like chemo or radiation, might be needed after surgery.

Doctors may also take samples of one or more nodes using needles. Usually, this is done on lymph nodes that are enlarged. This is called a needle biopsy. The tissue that’s removed is looked at under the microscope by a pathologist (a doctor who diagnoses illness using tissue samples) to find out if there are cancer cells in it

Under the microscope, any cancer cells in the nodes look like the cancer cells from the primary tumor. For instance, when breast cancer spreads to the lymph nodes, the cells in the nodes look like breast cancer cells. The pathologist prepares a report, which details what was found. If a node has cancer in it, the report describes what it looks like and how much was seen.

Doctors may also use scans or other imaging tests to look for enlarged nodes that deep in the body. For more on this, see Imaging (Radiology) Tests. Often, enlarged lymph nodes near a cancer are assumed to contain cancer.

Lymph nodes removal

Lymph node diseasesNodes that have been removed during cancer surgery can leave part of the body without a way to drain off the lymph fluid in the affected area. Many of the lymph vessels now run into a dead end where the node used to be, and fluid can back up. This is called lymphedema, and it can become a life-long problem. The more lymph nodes that are removed, the more likely it is to occur.

Treatment options for lymphadenopathy

Treatment for lymphadenopathy mainly depends on treating the underlying condition that is causing lymph node swelling.  If the lymph node swelling is caused by a bacterial infection, antibiotics are prescribed to treat the infection.  The swelling generally subsides when the underlying bacterial infection is treated.

Over the counter measures can be performed to reduce the pain associated with lymph node swelling.  Some of these measures include applying a warm cloth over the area, using heating pads.  This can be followed by apply ice packs to the area which helps in relieving inflammation.  Over the counter, pain-relieving medications can be taken to reduce the pain.  Pain medications can cause side effects and hence needs to be consumed only if absolutely necessary.  Finally, taking adequate rest can help in faster recovery.

Facts

  • Lymph nodes are found individually or in groups.
  • Some Lymph nodes are as small as the head of a pin, while are as large as an olive.

Facts

  • Groups of lymph nodes can be felt in the neck, groin, and underarms.
  • Lymph nodes generally are not tender or painful.

Facts

  • Most lymph nodes in the body cannot be palpated.

Related Conditions

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Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Seek immediate medical treatment when swollen lymph nodes accompany pain and fever.
  • Never try to pick a swollen lymph node.
  • Avoid direct contact with pets like cats which may cause lymphadenopathy.
  • Try home remedies to relieve pain and swelling associated with lymph node swelling.
Don'ts
  • Practice unsafe sexual encounters.
  • Take pain medications to relieve pain from lymph nodes above normal limits.
  • Ignore an underlying medical condition.
  • Try to pop the lymph node.

 

 

 

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Oxalates: How healthy greens can sometimes be bad news for your kidneys Oxalates are compounds present in a majority of healthy foods. However, at times an overconsumption of these could…
The Cabbage Soup Diet: The healthiest way to instant weight loss Cabbage soup diet rapid weight loss diet for those who want to shed those extra pounds in less…
apolipoprotein a1 test
Apolipoprotein -A1 (APO-A1) Test Apolipoprotein A-I (Apo-A1) constitutes 70% of protein content in high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and helps in lipid metabolism.
lipase test
Lipase Test A lipase test is a blood test performed to quantitatively measure the level of the enzyme lipase in…
ureteroscopy
Ureteroscopy Ureteroscopy is the diagnostic procedure which is used for the detection of the kidney stones in addition to…
shiitake mushrooms healthy
What are Shiitake Mushrooms and why should you eat them? Shiitake Mushrooms are well known for their smoky and robust taste. However, did you know they are replete…
Hepatitis A virus infected liver
Hepatitis A Virus (HAV) Total Blood test to look for IgM antibodies to know if you are infected with Hepatitis A virus (HAV),…
lose weight fast
12 easy and instant steps to successful weight loss Do you want to lose weight without losing your mind? Does weight loss always mean saying goodbye to…
nutritional yeast bread
Nutritional Yeast : How can a fungi culture be good for your body? Nutritional yeast: How a simple culture of fungi can transform your skin, digestion, immunity , and much more.…
avocado benefits
Avocado: 15 reasons why this fruit should be a staple in your diet Did you know that the word avocado literally means "testicles". Don't get grossed out as this power-packed fruit…
Bubble Tea: Bubbling with nutrition or a hidden sugar mine? The tapioca pearls present in the tea looks like bubbles and hence the name bubble tea became popular.…
EEG
Electroencephalogram – EEG EEG or electroencephalogram is a diagnostic tool used to access the functioning of neurons and brain activity to…
LFT-test
Liver Function Test – LFT LFT or Liver Function Test is a blood test used to determine the levels of hepatic enzymes which…
anoscopy
Anoscopy Anoscopy is an invasive diagnostic procedure where a small device known as anoscope will be inserted in the…
Rubella IgM test
Rubella IgM Test The Rubella IgM test is a blood test that is performed to diagnose the presence of the rubella…
free psa test
Free PSA Test The free PSA test is used to detect the level or percentage of free PSA in the body…
HSV-1_IGG
Herpes Simplex Virus I (HSV)-IgG Test Herpes simplex virus I(HSV)-IgG is an Immunoglobulin protein that acts as an antibody & stays in the blood…
Isagenix diet weight loss
How are BMI and BMR different and what do these numbers mean? BMI and BMR are two important metrics that provide a clear picture of your body's metabolism and also…
alcohol toxic
7 startling facts that will make you quit alcohol today Does drinking really make you friendly and happy? How many calories does a can of cold beer add…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
Jack in the box fast food
Jack In the Box : The perils of surging fast food culture in the USA Jack in the Box - How a culture of fast-food can clog your arteries, weaken your heart, fatten…
Cottage cheese: What can you find in this healthy chunk of fresh milk cheese? Love cheese but scared of putting on extra pounds? With cottage cheese, you can get the best of…
General adaptation syndrome: Understanding stress, one step at a time The struggle of the body to produce hormones during a stressful situation is the main theme of general…
Sciatica pain relief: Get rid of the pain with these easy daily tips Researchers have claimed that not only heat but icing the area too helps relieve sciatica pain. Find out…
Inversion Therapy: The anti-gravity way of healing chronic back pain Inversion therapy involves suspending a person upside dow using different types of equipment. This works by taking the…
sodium chloride
Halotherapy: How inhaling salt can work wonders for your body Halotherapy is quickly gaining popularity amongst those with respiratory diseases. It has shown promise in its treatment.
How to scrub away stress and fatigue with an Epsom salt bath? Epsom salt is a popular home remedy for many skin ailments. Though there is a lack of scientific…
Balneotherapy jacuzzi
5 things you didn’t know about balneotherapy and how you can do it at home Sauna baths have been popular since a long time. But how much more beneficial can balneotherapy be as…
Vitamin-D-blood-test
25-Hydroxy Vitamin D test 25-hydroxy Vitamin D test is a blood test used to measure the level of vitamin D in the…
CEA_test
Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test CEA or carcinoembryonic test detects the presence of CEA antigen in your blood mainly & determines the effectiveness…
phenytoin test
Phenytoin test Phenytoin is a drug that is administered mainly to epilepsy patients. The phenytoin blood test measures the level…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
Squid-ink-spaghetti
Squid Ink: A unique food coloring and flavoring agent Want to add a unique black color to your pasta, noodles and ice-creams? How can you use squid…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
Tight phimosis ring
Phimosis Read to know everything about phimosis, types, symptoms, treatment, risks and prognosis for patients with this condition.
Jicama: A fiber-rich tuber for your weight loss goals Pronouced as HEE-kah-ma, Jicama is the "new kid on the block" that has taken the world by the…