What are Inflamed Lymph Nodes?
Inflamed or swollen lymph nodes are not at all times considered a serious condition. Oftentimes, inflamed lymph nodes can just be treated at home using over-the-counter medications. However, there are certain instances in which you have to seek professional care to treat the main cause of swollen lymph nodes.
Swollen lymph nodes are not actually a type of disease rather this is just among the manifestations of an underlying condition. Inflamed lymph nodes are typically caused by viral or bacterial infection. Certain types of cancer may also bring forth swollen lymph nodes also known as lymphadenitis.
Lymph nodes are important part of the immune system because these help ward off the pathogens and keep them from attacking our body. Inflamed lymph nodes involve more than just one gland. For children, lymph nodes are already considered swollen if they exceed 1 centimeter. Inflamed lymph nodes typically occur within the neck, near the chin, in the armpits and in the inguinal area. These swollen glands will just eventually resolve through certain over-the-counter drugs. Nevertheless, in more serious cases of inflamed lymph nodes prompt medical treatment may be necessary especially when this involves fever that does not subside and when there is difficulty of breathing. These are among the warning signs of a more serious condition that needs to be treated immediately.
Your lymph nodes may get inflamed due to several causes. The location of the inflamed lymph nodes would also depend to which area is affected. Generally, bacteria, viruses and certain types of cancer are among the primary causes of inflamed lymph nodes. This can also be specifically cause by the following:
- Certain types of cancer like Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia
- Colds/flu- There are actually different strains of colds or flu within a year. Each year, a new strain mutates. Since this is typically caused by a virus, this will likely involve swollen lymph nodes.
- Ear infection- Even a simple inflammation localized within the ear would also inflame the lymph nodes located near it.
- Infectious mononucleosis
- Skin infections
- Tooth abscesses
Lymph nodes are scattered all throughout the body because these are part of the vast the lymphatic system. However, these can be prominently found within the head and neck area and these are the most common locations of swollen lymph nodes. When the lymph nodes become inflamed this most likely suggests that something is wrong within that area. Symptoms of swollen lymph nodes include:
- Tenderness which is usually felt at the lymph nodes and the surrounding areas
- The bumps may be as big as a pea or kidney bean. These may also become even bigger.
- Signs of upper respiratory tract infection may also be present which include runny nose and fever.
- Night sweats
- Swollen limbs
These inflamed lymph nodes would just eventually go away without further medical intervention. Nevertheless, there are some conditions which would prompt you to see your doctor right away and these include:
- Swollen lymph nodes that do not resolve within two weeks especially if these appear with no apparent reason and are accompanied by nausea, unexplained weight loss and recurring fever.
- It is especially imperative to go to your doctor immediately when inflamed lymph nodes are accompanied by difficulty of breathing.
Do not be hesitant to consult your physician and also do not just take this condition lightly for this may forewarn you of a serious condition. However, be prepared during your visit to the doctor’s office. More often than not, clinic appointments are very brief and you might not have the chance to ask your physician whatever you want due to time constraints. Thus, prior to your visit at the clinic, you may already list all the possible questions that you would like to ask your doctor. You may also take note of the symptoms that you felt and for how long you have been experiencing these.
Inflamed lymph nodes can be diagnosed through the following:
- Thorough physical examination
- Lab workups which include blood tests
- Imaging studies like x-rays and CT scans
- Cell biopsy may also be performed to detect for the presence of any malignancies
The treatment for inflamed lymph nodes usually depends. Rapidly growing nodes and slow growing ones have different modes of treatment. It is important that you tell your doctor of the characteristics of the lymph nodes so proper medical management can be given.
- Inflamed lymph nodes can usually be just treated at home using pain relievers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
- Warm compress may also be applied to relieve the ongoing inflammatory process.
- Anti-viral medications may also be prescribed depending on the exact cause of the inflammation.
- The inflamed lymph nodes also need to be drained when there are abscesses. The skin is usually cut open to allow drainage of pus.
- If the inflammation is due to cancer, radiation and chemotherapy may be necessary.
- There are also special medications for immune disorders.
If inflamed lymph nodes are just being left untreated, these may lead to the following complications:
Abscesses– These appear to be whitish and pus-filled. Abscesses need to be treated right away because these may bring irreversible damage to vital organs.
Sepsis– This is a life-threatening condition which should be resolved right away. This would lead to death if not treated immediately.
So long as the inflamed lymph nodes do not involve other serious conditions, the rate of recovery is pretty good. These would just eventually resolve within a week and the person may resume to his or her normal activities of daily living.
Oftentimes, it is totally possible to just manage this at home. To slow down the inflammatory process, you may apply warm compress over the affected areas. You can also take pain medications to relieve the discomforts. Lastly, do not forget to take enough rest. People who are considered to be immunocompromised should also steer clear from potential infections. Inflamed lymph nodes are not really something to fret about. Just take note of the symptoms and its duration so you would exactly know when the right time is to consult your doctor.