Swollen Lymph Nodes: The "A" And "B" List Of Causes
The Less Famous Siblings...
A swollen lymph node can instantly inspire fears of cancer, treatment, and death. These are the causes that get the most attention in the family of causes that are responsible for the swelling.
Cancer is most famous of its siblings... with the sister being infection and brother being injury. The latter two don't get as much attention when it comes to being responsible for swollen lymph nodes. Normally a node will swell up when it is battling an infection in the nearby region that it is located in and then return to its normal size when done. When a lymph node doesn't return to its normal size it can be a sign of a more serious cause for the swelling.
Only a healthcare professional can determine if the node is able to battle pathogens, debris, or injury on its own or if treatment of the underlying cause will be necessary. When the nodes are losing their battle it can result in a life threatening health condition so often self-treatment will not be an option.
The "A" List of Causes For Swelling
Cancer is a rare cause of swollen nodes so when one isn't responding "normally" it is a good idea to get an appointment with your primary doctor to get it checked. There are many different kinds of cancer that will have lymph node involvement including lymphoma and breast cancer. Below are some of the more severe reasons for the swelling:
The "B" List of Causes For Swelling
The most common cause of swollen nodes is infection in the body from bacteria or a virus. Injury and medications can also cause the nodes to enlarge. When this occurs it commonly lasts only a couple weeks. They should return to their original size because the infection ran its course without treatment or after successful treatment for the infection that was causing the swelling. Generally a swollen lymph node can be felt in the following places:
Each region in the body has its own set of lymph nodes (Swollen lymph nodes: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia) that will filter the fluid that travels through the body. These are some of the possible causes of swelling:
- Throat infection
- Skin Boil
- Skin infection
- Ear infection
- Chicken Pox
- Yeast Infection
One of the medications that can cause nodes to swell is Phenytion, which is also known as Dilantin, Dilantin Infatabs, Dilantin-125, Phenytek, Dilantin Kapseals, Phenytoin Sodium, Prompt, and Di-Phen. A typhoid immunization injection can also be a cause.
Question - Can Antibiotics Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?
What Are Some Of The Symptoms
Some of the symptoms that a lymph node should be examined:
- Gut feeling
- Node is fixed in place
- Fast growing
- Additional symptoms
- Swelling from no known cause
- Enlarged for over two weeks
- Health complications
- Rubbery nodes
- Swollen limbs
- Hard or irregular nodes
- Red in color
Healthy nodes are the size of a bean but may also resemble buckshot under the skin (shotty nodes). It is better to get a node checked and find out there is a simple infection is the cause than to delay care and find out a serious disease like cancer progressed from a delayed diagnosis. Sometimes a biopsy will be necessary to test the node for cancer cells.
Additional Information - Neck Lymph Nodes
5 Home Remedies To Sooth The Discomfort
A lymph node, which is enlarged, can become tender and painful so the following 5 home remedies can be useful in soothing the discomfort.
- Adding Warmth: Applying a heating pad after massaging the spot with castor oils, which is a vegetable oil found in the castor bean, can help relieve the pain and possibly lessen the swelling.
- Taking Vitamins: By giving your body extra zinc and selenium through supplements, it can boost your immune system.
- Pain Medication: Using over-the-counter pain medicine – like aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen - may help the discomfort caused by the swelling.
- Honey: With natural qualities in reducing swelling in any area of the body, it can possibly be used to help swollen lymph nodes. Drinking a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of honey could be helpful.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Another natural remedy – similar to honey – drinking two to three spoons of this vinegar in a cup of water three to four times a day could help the pain and swelling.
With un-natural and natural remedies, there are many ways to sooth the uncomfortably feelings; however, if the swelling doesn't go away in a couple of weeks, it is recommended to contact a health care professional to perform tests to diagnose the reason of the swollen, tender, or painful lymph node.
When the swelling is caused by infection that wasn't treated and ignored, the following complication may perhaps develop:
- Bacteremia (Bloodstream Infection) - As the name entails, it is the presence of bacteria in the blood stream. This infection may be responsible for severe consequences to the body’s immune response, causing sepsis and septic shock. Bacteremia is usually diagnosed by a blood culture test.
- Abscess Development - It is a collection of pus, which has accumulated within a tissue, triggered by an infection. The pus contains white blood cells, bacteria and dead tissues, fluid, or possibly other intruders. Antibiotic and drainage may be necessary to treat the abscess. Without treatment and when vital organs are involved an abscess could cause severe damage to the body.
Biopsy to Determine Stage of Cancer
When cancer is the cause of a swollen lymph node a biopsy may be performed to find out if the cancer has spread to the nodes and even to other parts of the body. If possible, biopsies are not done because the only way to do one is to remove the node (lymphadenectomy), which can cause complications and lymph fluid buildup. Sentinel nodes are often removed first to minimize the number of nodes that are removed. Biopsies can be instrumental in properly staging and treating cancer. Fortunately most swollen nodes are not from cancer.
When To See The Doctor
In everyday life the hundreds of lymph nodes in the body are unnoticed as they perform their job of filtering the lymph throughout the body. With some under muscle and other tissues in the body and others are closer to the skins surface. The latter are more noticeable when they are enlarged. Some of the signs that the nodes should be examined by a medical professional include the following:
- Fixed position
- Tender to touch
- Rapidly increases in size
- Skin on or around is red and inflamed
Additional signs of a serious medical condition are unexplained weight loss, flu like symptoms, persistent fever, night sweats, and difficulty swallowing. If any of these signs last longer than 1-2 weeks, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment.
Only a healthcare professional can properly diagnose the cause of swollen, enlarged, or inflamed lymph nodes. Now you can use your knowledge of knowing the "A" and "B" List of causes to distinguish the possible reasons for the Swollen. We all know, it is better to get a medical exam than to allow a serious illness to go undiagnosed or untreated.
About The Author: Jan Pavis-Sparks is a writer at heart. Her passion for writing started in grade school. In high school she had poems published in the book "Young America Sings" (regional and national editions). Over the following decades she continued creative writing. She has worked in health related fields since 1997.