Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system, a vital component of your immune system. These oval-shaped glands are located throughout your body including your neck, under your chin, beneath your armpits and in your groin. These glands work to trap any bacteria or viruses that are traveling through your body’s lymph system.
Because the lymph nodes come into close contact with germs, they can easily become infected. When they become infected they swell; this is called lymphadenitis. Swollen lymph nodes are a sign that something is wrong. The cause of the swelling can range from the common cold, strep throat, mononucleosis and skin infection to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Immune system disorders such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis as well as cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia can also cause lymphadenitis.
In addition to being swollen, the glands will also be tender or painful. Depending on the cause of the infection, many experience a runny nose, sore throat, fever, swollen limbs and night sweats. If left untreated, the swollen glands can lead to abscess formation, a collection of pus caused by an infection, or a blood stream infection.
Use of a warm compress, over-the-counter pain medication and adequate rest are typically all that is required to relieve the symptoms of swollen glands. If the glands continue to enlarge, or have not responded to treatment within two to four weeks, you should seek medical attention.
In order to determine the cause of your swollen lymph nodes your doctor will review your medical history and complete a physical exam. Blood tests, imaging and a lymph node biopsy may be ordered, depending on the potential cause of the enlargement.
If you think you are suffering from swollen lymph nodes without an obvious cause, contact our office at 337-266-9820 to schedule an appointment. Early intervention is key to proper treatment.