Reasons for Swollen Glands in the Neck

We all have small bundles of white blood cells present in certain areas throughout our body known as Lymph Nodes, often referred to as glands. Swollen glands or lymph nodes are part of the body’s defense system. They are used to fight off infections. Lymph nodes are part of our lymphatic system and are bean shaped tissues that can be as small as a pen head or as large as a jellybean.

When our body is fighting off an infection or virus, our lymph nodes many times will swell. This is caused from our body fighting off an infection and our white blood cell count increasing and causing our lymph nodes to swell. Lymph nodes filter fluid that flow through them trapping bacteria, and other foreign species destroying it by with lymphocytes.

There are 500 to 700 lymph nodes found throughout our body. Some of the locations where swollen glands are most often found include our neck, around our collar bones, under the jaw line on each side of our neck, behind the ears, in the arm pit, and in the groin.

Often times, swollen lymph nodes are caused from an infection or virus. A few infections which are common culprits include ear infections, cold, flu, Mononucleosis and Tonsillitis. However, a few other common causes are an abscess, gingivitis, mouth sores, sexually transmitted disease, and skin infections. Cancer can also cause lymph nodes to swell. A few of the cancer that more commonly lead to lymph nodes enlargement include leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but there are several other cancers that may lead to the problem as well. Those who suffer from immune or autoimmune disorder seem to be more susceptible to swollen lymph nodes because of their broken down immune system.

One of the keys to determining the route cause of lymph nodes swelling is which lymph nodes are being affected. Normally lymph nodes will go back to their regular size within a few days without treatment, but it could also take several weeks for them to heal. The cause of pain in the lymph nodes is rapid swelling as they fight infection.

When your lymph nodes swell there are things to watch for and seek medical attention if they exist. Seek medical attention of your lymph nodes continue to enlarge or don’t go back to normal within several weeks, if they are red, sore, hard, don’t move when pressed, have an irregular shape, you experience a fever, weight loss when not on a diet, and in children if their nodes grow bigger than 1 cm or a little smaller than ½ inch around.

When seeking medical attention your doctor will probably do a physical exam to check your nodes for heat, tenderness, size, texture or any other abnormalities. They may also take a blood test to check liver and kidney function, possibly a biopsy, chest x-ray, or a spleen scan.

If you notice your lymph nodes are swollen, don’t panic! More than likely it is caused from infection or a virus even though it could be cause from something more serious. While you can seek medical care, most times your lymph nodes will go back to normal on there own. Get plenty of rest, and if you notice your nodes are not getting smaller you should talk with your doctor.


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