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Swollen Lymph Glands (cont.)

When to Seek Medical Care

Inflamed lymph nodes themselves are generally not a major concern, but if you have symptoms of another condition along with enlarged lymph nodes, consult your doctor:

  • If the swelling of the nodes lasts for more than two weeks or you have symptoms such as weight loss, night sweats, fatigue, or fever
  • If the nodes are hard, fixed to the skin, do not move, or are growing rapidly
  • If you can feel swelling close to your collarbone or in the lower part of the neck
  • If the overlying skin is red and inflamed and you suspect an infection

The diagnosis of swollen lymph nodes rarely requires emergency hospital treatment. The exceptions to this include a growing infection of the skin that requires treatment, a severely infected lymph node that needs to be drained, or severe pain. If a swollen lymph node in the neck makes breathing or swallowing difficult, seek medical treatment immediately.

How to Test Swollen Lymph Nodes

  • The doctor will ask the person about any associated symptoms and perform a physical examination.
  • Depending on the extent of the problem, the doctor may order blood tests, X-rays, and a CT scan of the affected area.
  • On follow-up, a biopsy of the swollen node may be needed. A sample of the tissue may be taken out by withdrawing cells from the lymph node with a thin needle (fine needle aspiration or biopsy). In other cases a lymph node itself or a portion of a lymph node may be removed for examination. In all these cases the tissue is examined by a pathologist under a microscope to determine the cause of the swelling.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2016

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