Irving Primary Care

Swollen Lymph Nodes: Should You Be Worried?

Swollen lymph nodes, more commonly referred to as swollen glands, is a condition where your lymph nodes become enlarged due to infection. Lymph nodes are soft nodules of tissue that are located throughout your body. They are a part of the body’s immune system and help fight infection.

Lymph nodes are responsible for collecting waste materials and harmful bacteria and viruses present in the lymph fluid. They also contain white blood cells. The most common lymph nodes that you will feel are located under the jaw, under the armpits, on both sides of your neck, and on either side of the groin. Let’s take a look at the causes of swollen lymph nodes and whether you need to visit a physician.

The Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

There are several causes of swollen lymph nodes. For the most part, your lymph nodes tend to swell as a standard response to infection. They may also swell due to stress. Some of the most common illnesses associated with swollen lymph nodes include colds, ear infections, the flu, tonsillitis, skin infections, or glandular fever. In some cases, however, the underlying cause of swollen lymph nodes may be much more serious. They may be caused by some types of cancer (lymphoma), rheumatoid arthritis, HIV, measles, Hodgkin’s disease, tuberculosis, lupus, syphilis, etc.

Some anti-seizure and anti-malarial drugs may also be responsible.

The Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are usually detected through physical examination. They feel like soft, circular bumps. You can gently press areas like the side of your neck to see if there is swelling. Some people experience tenderness in their lymph nodes and may experience pain when they are chewing food or when they turn their neck in a certain direction. Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area may cause pain when you walk or bend.

You should consider visiting a physician if the swelling has not reduced after a few weeks or has increased, if the lymph nodes feel hard when you press them, if you have difficulty swallowing or breathing, and if you have a sore throat. Swollen lymph nodes accompanied by weight loss (if you are not dieting), and a persistent fever is also a source of concern.

Diagnosing Swollen Lymph Nodes

If you experience the symptoms described above, then you can visit a physician for a preliminary exam. Besides conducting a physical examination, they will ask you about your symptoms and your medical history to diagnose the cause of the swelling. They can also order a routine blood test or an imaging test (ultrasound, an MRI scan, and a CT scan) as part of the diagnosis.

Treating Swollen Lymph Nodes

A doctor will usually prescribe antibiotics or antiviral medication if the lymph nodes are swollen due to infection. You may also need to take ibuprofen and aspirin to help with the pain and inflammation. In most cases, swollen lymph nodes are not due to cancer. However, you can get a diagnosis done just to be safe.

If you’re seeking further advice on the causes of swollen lymph nodes, we suggest you make an appointment with a physician at Health One Family Medicine, visit call (469)262-5762.