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Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen Lymph Nodes Quick Overview

Lymph nodes (erroneously called lymph glands) are a part of the lymphatic system, a component of the body's immune system. Swollen lymph nodes may signal an infection.

There are several groups of lymph nodes, which are small, bean-shaped, soft nodules of tissue. The ones most frequently enlarged or swollen are found in the neck (a chain of lymph nodes is located in the front of the neck, the sides of the neck, and the back of the neck behind the ears), under the chin, in the armpits, and in the groin. There is also a large group of lymph nodes in the chest and abdomen, which are sometimes found to be enlarged on X-rays or CT scans.

  • The lymphatic system consists of nodes and ducts spread throughout the body. They bring the lymph [the tissue fluid surrounding the cells, which contains white blood cells (lymphocytes), fluid from the intestines (chyle), and some red blood cells] back into the circulation through the veins. Lymph contains a concentration of infectious and other foreign substances (antigens).
  • Lymph nodes are small clusters of cells, surrounded by a capsule. Ducts go into and out of them. The cells in lymph nodes are lymphocytes, which produce antibodies (protein particles that bind foreign substances including infectious particles) and macrophages which digest the debris. They act as the "cleaner" cells of the body.
  • The lymph nodes are a major site where foreign substances and infectious agents interact with the cells of the immune system. A major cluster of the lymph nodes is the spleen, which, apart from other functions, also helps fight infections and responds to foreign substances in the body.
Picture of Superficial Lymph Nodes in the Body
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2016

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Swollen Lymph Nodes:

Swollen Lymph Nodes - Diagnosis

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Swollen Lymph Nodes - Cause

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Swollen Lymph Nodes - Symptoms

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Swollen Lymph Nodes Locations

What Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Lymph nodes often swell in one location when a problem such as an injury, infection, or tumor develops in or near the lymph node. Which lymph nodes are swollen can help identify the problem.

  • The glands on either side of the neck, under the jaw, or behind the ears commonly swell when you have a cold or sore throat. Glands can also swell following an injury, such as a cut or bite, near the gland or when a tumor or infection occurs in the mouth, head, or neck.
  • Glands in the armpit (axillary lymph nodes) may swell from an injury or infection to the arm or hand. A rare cause of axillary swelling may be breast cancer or lymphoma.
  • The lymph nodes in the groin (femoral or inguinal lymph nodes) may swell from an injury or infection in the foot, leg, groin, or genitals. In rare cases, testicular cancer, lymphoma, or melanoma may cause a lump in this area.
  • Glands above the collarbone (supraclavicular lymph nodes) may swell from an infection or tumor in the areas of the lungs, breasts, neck, or abdomen.

SOURCE: Healthwise


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