Ever felt a pea-size swelling behind your ears, on your neck, under your chin or in your armpits and wondered what it may be. If you went to a doctor, you may have heard of lymph nodes. In medical terms, lymph nodes are tiny bean-shaped structures that are one aspect of the body's immune system. It usually contains cells that help fight against infections. Usually, a swollen lymph node is a sign of a bacterial, viral, fungal infection, or an autoimmune disease, says Dr Neha Sood, Principal Consultant- ENT & Cochlear Implant, BLK-Max Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi.
“These lymph nodes filter the germs and cells that pass through your lymph fluid, which is clear or slightly yellowish in colour and made up of White Blood Cells (WBCs), proteins, and fats,” she explains.
Also Read: Tricuspid Valve Disease: Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment Explained
Understanding The Causes Of Swollen Lymph Nodes
According to Dr Sood, there are many factors that can cause the lymph nodes to swell. These include:
- An impacted tooth
- An ear infection
- A cold
- Swelling or inflammation of the gums (gingivitis)
- Mouth sores
- Sexually transmitted illness (STI)
- Skin infections
Swollen lymph nodes usually occur due to certain infections, such as bacterial, fungal, and viral. In addition, autoimmune disorders.
The doctor advises to not ignore any form of swelling as in certain cases, it could also indicate malignant disease, such as head and neck cancers, leukaemia, lymphoma, or a metastatic cancer, which means cancer that has spread to other organs.
Also Read: Sleep And Immune System: Expert Explains Impact On Immunity Due To Lack Of Sleep
When To See A Doctor?
It is important to take all cautionary measures and leave no stones unturned. Get yourself examined by a healthcare professional, if:
- Your lymph nodes are increasing in size or not getting smaller after a few weeks
- They feel hard, irregular, or stiff
- They are Painful and red
- You've got a fever, nocturnal sweats, or a sudden loss of weight
- Any node larger than 1 centimetre in diameter in children
Dr Sood says that the course of action depends on what caused the enlarged nodes. In case of swollen nodes caused by an bacterial infection, treatment may include:
- Antibiotics used orally or intravenously to treat a bacterial illness
- Medicine to control pain and fever
- Medicine to reduce swelling
- Surgical removal of a pus-filled lymph node
Usually, swollen lymph nodes are not a cause of worry. It can either be treated with medications, depending on the cause, or will vanish on its own. However, if these do not subside for two to four weeks or occur for no reason or feel firm or rubbery, don't move when you push on them, it must be addressed and consulted with a doctor. Remember, prevention is better than cure and vigilance is key in maintaining overall health.