What can cause swollen lymph nodes?

When we talk about inflammation of the lymph nodes we are referring to enlargement of one or more of them. These are found throughout the body and, under certain circumstances, can increase in size.

Lymph node swelling usually occurs as a response to the presence of viruses or bacteria. However, this condition can also be a consequence of more serious diseases such as cancer.

lymph nodes

THE United States National Library of Medicine explains that these small organs are essential part of the immune system Helps recognize and fight germs. When enlargement occurs, it is referred to as an inflamed ganglion.

When inflammation of the lymph nodes arises as a result of an infection, it is referred to as lymphadenitis. It must be remembered that these nodes They work as a kind of filter. which traps viruses and bacteria before they can infect other parts of the body.

In some areas of the body, enlarged lymph nodes may be detected only by manual palpation. These areas are the groin, armpit, neck, under the jaw or chin, behind the ears, and on the back of the head.

Causes of swollen lymph nodes

Swollen lymph nodes from respiratory infections
Respiratory infections are among the most common causes of swollen lymph nodes.

Seen close up, a lymph node it’s like a group of cells. It is small and round and is covered with a capsule of connective tissue. They contain two types of cells which are lymphocytes and macrophages. These nodes are organized into groups, and each group drains lymph fluid from nearby body parts.

THE main causes of swollen lymph nodes described in MSD Manual I am:

  • infections common: from ordinary infections, such as ear infections or dental abscesses, to more complex ones such as those caused by HIV.
  • unusual infections: they correspond to those low-incidence infections which, however, can be very serious. Some of them are: tuberculosis, toxoplasmosis, sexually transmitted diseases and cat scratch fever.
  • Immune system disorders: they basically include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
  • Cancer: Nodes become inflamed when there is lymphoma or lymphatic cancer. Also, when there is leukemia or other cancers that have metastasized to the lymphatic system

Despite this, cases have been known where the cause of swollen lymph nodes is due to the ingestion of certain medications. In particular antiepileptic drugs or preventives against malaria.

Detection of swollen nodes

Swollen lymph nodes at the doctor
During a medical examination, the doctor will perform the corresponding physical examination to determine the status of the lymph nodes.

The lymphatic system comprises a network of organs, vessels, and lymph nodes. Typically, the inflammation occurs in the nodes located in the groin, head or armpits. Such inflammation makes them look the size of a pea or even slightly larger.

When there is inflammation of the lymph nodes, they appear some factors to consider. Among them, the following:

  • To measure. It is the most important data. In general, if the node is between 1 and 1.5 centimeters, it is considered benign. Any swollen node larger than 4cm should be biopsied.
  • Consistency. Usually, soft nodes suggest the existence of an infection. Hard knots are usually a sign of a more complex pathology.
  • Mobility. The less mobile the node is, the greater the suspicion that a malicious process is in progress.
  • Ache. Pain does not provide very clear information. However, the normal thing is that if the inflamed ganglion hurts, it corresponds to a benign process.
  • Position. In any place it can be a malignant or a benign process. It is not a relevant criterion.

Particularly relevant is that the inflammation of the lymph nodes that are located above the collarbone, in all cases, it is pathological. Consequently, the malignancy rate in these cases is extremely high.

Prognosis and complications

The medical encyclopedia in Spanish indicates that the normal thing is that the inflammation of the lymph nodes go away while the infection is being treated which gave rise to it. In any case, it is very common for them to retain an enlarged appearance for some time, even after the infection has passed.

If after a month the knots do not return to their normal size, you should consult a doctor. Also, if they have a rubbery texture or feel very hard and static when touched. Sometimes they compress adjacent areas and this requires immediate medical advice.

Finally, if the infection is not treated properly, can give rise to abscesses. That is, a bacterial infection in the bloodstream that could lead to organ failure and even death.

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