Swollen lymph nodes: diagnosis and treatment

Lymph nodes are small round structures, which have a vital function in the immune system. Found throughout the body, they allow us to recognize and fight microbes, infections, and other foreign substances. Swollen lymph nodes refer to the growth of one or more lymph nodes. The medical term is lymphadenopathy. If the lymph nodes in our body become inflamed, it means that an infection is in progress. It can also indicate a medical condition, such as an immune disorder and sometimes a type of cancer.

In this article, you can find out how swollen nodes are diagnosed and what treatment to follow. But before specifying these details you must know in depth what they are, their symptoms and the causes that produce them.

What are swollen lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes contain immune cells that allow us to fight an infection. Its function is to collect and filter harmful liquids, waste material and germs.

Those that can mainly be seen or felt are located under the jaw. On each side of the neck, under the armpits, and on each side of the groin. The process is as follows: lymphatic fluid enters and leaves the nodes, collecting and absorbing harmful matter (bacteria, viruses). The lymph nodes filter the fluid and release it back into the bloodstream.

May become inflamed due to temporary infection as a result of immune cell activity. The inflammation is usually localized in the affected area.

How can I determine if I have swollen lymph nodes?

You can check if your lymph nodes are swollen by applying light pressure around the area. If they are indeed inflamed, you will feel soft, round and tender bumps.

They appear parallel on both sides of the body, so you can compare if one is larger than the other. Some people feel pain when making a sudden movement. Likewise, inflammation often occurs along with other symptoms such as a sore throat, cough, or flu sickness.

What symptoms does swollen lymph nodes produce?

This condition is considered an alert that tells us that something is happening in our body. When inflamed for the first time, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Inflammation.
  • Sensitivity.
  • Pain.

In turn, other symptoms may occur depending on the cause of inflammation. These might be:

  • Fever.
  • Hard, fixed and bulging nodes.
  • Night sweats.
  • Runny nose.
  • Throat pain.
  • General swelling of the lymph nodes.

What are your causes?

Inflammation can occur from various causes, among the most common are:


They can cause lymph nodes to swell and are primarily viral. Some of these infections can be:

  • Flu.
  • Common cold.
  • Tonsillitis.
  • Sinus infections.
  • Skin infections
  • Mononucleosis.
  • Staph infections.
  • Strep throat.
  • Infections in the teeth or gums.
  • Fungal infections
  • There are more serious infections that can also cause inflammation of one or more areas of the lymph nodes and are:
  • Herpes.
  • Tuberculosis.
  • Chickenpox.
  • Lyme’s desease.
  • Measles.
  • Rubella.
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • HIV

Immune system disorders

Among them are:

  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Lupus.


It is unlikely to occur, but in some cases, swollen lymph nodes can be an indication of some type of cancer which may include the following:

  • Leukemia.
  • Metastasis.
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma.
  • Lymphoma
  • Hodgkin’s disease.

The risk factors that can cause a person to develop a lymphatic problem are the following:

  • Being male.
  • Have white skin
  • Be over 40 years of age.
  • These people may find that their nodes feel hard. In addition, they have fever, night sweats, and weight loss.

How is the diagnosis of swollen lymph nodes made?

In general, the treating physician can diagnose a swollen lymph node by taking into account the following:

Medical history

The doctor should inquire about the patient’s data (when and how the inflammation occurred) and determine if any symptoms are present.

Physical exam

It consists of a review where its size, sensitivity, color and texture are verified.

Laboratory exams

Some specific blood tests help confirm or rule out a suspicious condition. Usually a complete blood count is performed where various disorders such as infections and even leukemia can be determined.

Imaging studies

A chest X-ray or CT scan of the affected area helps confirm or rule out possible infections or a suspected tumor.

Lymph node biopsy

It consists of removing a sample of a lymph node to be analyzed microscopically.

What is the treatment to follow for swollen lymph nodes?

Most of the time, they are not a serious problem. This inflammation disappears once the disease that caused it also disappears, thus regaining its normal size. The treatment to follow for swollen lymph nodes will depend on its cause of origin:


The treatment frequently used for this cause is antibiotics. In this sense, if it is determined that the inflammation is due to an HIV infection, the treatment to be received must be specific for this condition.

Immune disorder

If the inflammation is due to certain conditions such as lupus or any of the aforementioned, the treatment indicated by the specialist must be specific for each condition that occurs.


Similarly, it will depend on the type of cancer that is present. So treatment may include surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Recommendations to relieve symptoms

Some recommendations that can relieve you, in case your swollen lymph nodes are sensitive. In addition, you feel any discomfort or pain are the following:

  • Apply a warm, wet compress to the affected area.
  • Take a pain reliever (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen). If the patient is a child, you should consult a doctor beforehand.
  • Have rest.

In most cases, the swelling subsides and then disappears within 2 to 3 weeks. Especially after the body has successfully fought off the infection. In such case, that the inflammation persists for a longer time, it is recommended to consult a doctor.

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