- Lymph nodes, also referred to as lymph glands, are important part of the immune system.
- Lymph nodes are located throughout the body, but visible and palpable only when they are enlarged or swollen.
- Lymph nodes are regional, and each group of them corresponds to a particular region of the body and reflects abnormalities in that region. Common areas where swollen lymph nodes are more prominent and therefore more readily noticeable are behind the ear, in the neck, the groin, under the chin and in the armpits.
- These are also usually the areas your doctor will check for lymph node enlargement.
- In general, infections are the most common causes of lymph node enlargement. Other causes include inflammation and cancers. There is a wide variety of infections from a strep throat or ear infection, to mononucleosis or HIV infection, which can cause swelling of lymph nodes.
- Lymphoma and leukemia cause swelling of lymph nodes, and many cancers spread to lymph nodes.
- Rarely, a medication can cause swelling of a lymph node.
- Symptoms associated with lymph node swelling and related diseases can include pain in the area of the swelling, fever and fatigue.
- Not all swollen lymph nodes are abnormal.
Gland swelling commonly refers to enlargement of the lymph glands, also known as lymph node. Lymph nodes are small rounded or bean-shaped masses of lymphatic tissue surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph glands (nodes) are located in many places in the lymphatic system throughout the body. Lymph nodes filter the lymphatic fluid and store special cells that can trap cancer cells or bacteria that are traveling through the body in the lymph fluid. The lymph nodes are critical for the body’s immune response and are principal sites where many immune reactions are initiated.
Groups of lymph nodes are found in the neck, around the collarbone, in the armpit (axilla), and in the groin. During a physical examination, a doctor may feel (palpate) these areas to look for swollen or enlarged lymph glands.
Swelling of the lymph glands is typically a result of local or widespread inflammation, but sometimes enlarged lymph nodes are due to cancer. Swollen lymph glands are referred to as lymphadenopathy. Inflammation of a lymph node is referred to as lymphadenitis.
Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes include:
- Localized Pain
- Warmth in the involved area.
Sometimes swollen lymph nodes cause no symptoms (referred to as asymptomatic lymph node swelling). Symptoms that can be associated with lymph node swelling, depending on the cause, include:
- Night Sweats
- Weight Loss
- Poor Appetite
Other glands that are sometimes perceptible when swollen are the tonsils, parotid glands, salivary glands, tear (lacrimal) glands, and the thyroid gland.