Lymph nodes are joined together by a network of lymph channels. Lymph is a fluid that forms between the cells of the body. This watery fluid travels in the lymph channels, through various lymph nodes and eventually drains into the bloodstream.
Lymph and lymph nodes are major parts of the immune system. They contain white blood cells (lymphocytes) and antibodies that defend the body against infection.
Swollen Lymph nodes, known medically as lymphadenopathy, may be felt under the chin or in the neck, armpits or groin. Lymph nodes are commonly seen in the neck few are just palpable. You cannot see or feel lymph glands deeper in the chest or tummy (abdomen) if they swell.
There are a number of causes of swollen lymph glands. Lymph nodes often swell in one location when a problem such as an injury, infection, or tumor develops in or near the lymph node. The most common cause is infection. See your doctor if you have swollen lymph glands and you do not know why they have swollen, or if swollen lymph glands caused by an infection do not go down again within two to three weeks.
Infection – the common cause
The lymph glands near to an infection swell quickly and become tender as the immune system ‘fights off’ infecting germs (bacteria, viruses, etc). The lymph glands usually go back to their normal pea size when the infection is over. It can take a week or so for them gradually to go back to normal after the infection. Examples include the following: Throat infections and tooth-related infections may cause lymph glands in the neck to swell. Ear infections and scalp skin conditions or even head lice may cause the lymph glands at the back of the head to swell.
Cancers, lymphomas and leukemia – the less common causes
Some cells from a cancer can break off and spread (metastasis) to nearby lymph glands via the lymph channels. These cancer cells then grow and multiply in the lymph nodes and cause the glands to swell. For example: Cancer of the throat, Lymphomas are rare causes.As a rule, swollen lymph glands due to cancers, lymphomas and leukaemias develop more slowly than those due to infections. They also tend to be painless at first.
Other less common causes
Rarely, swollen lymph glands can be due to reactions to certain drugs, glycogen storage diseases, sarcoidosis and certain forms of arthritis. They may also be caused by less common infections such as HIV, Kawasaki disease, and Tuberculosis (TB).
The treatment depends on the cause. Swollen lymph glands are like a marker of various conditions, all with different outlooks and treatments. So, for example, the common cause is due to a viral infection. In this case no specific treatment may be advised and the lymph glands will
If necessary, your doctor may request one of the following tests to find out the cause: Blood tests, ray Chest, CT Scan of Neck and biopsy-needle or excision.
The treatment depends on the diagnosis.