Symptoms and Signs of Swollen Lymph Nodes

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019

Doctor's Notes on Swollen Lymph Nodes

Swollen lymph nodes are enlargements of the small organs known as lymph nodes that are important for filtering lymph fluid and forming white blood cells to fight infection. Swollen lymph nodes can occur in one area or region of the body, or they may be found throughout the body, depending upon the cause. Lymph nodes are the organs that can trap cancer cells that have spread into the lymphatic vessels. Lymph nodes are sometimes referred to by lay persons as lymph glands, and swollen lymph nodes may be called “swollen glands.” Infection is the main cause of swollen lymph nodes. Spread of cancer to lymph nodes is a less common cause of lymph node swelling.

The neck, groin, and armpits are areas where swollen lymph nodes may be apparent. Associated symptoms are dependent upon the cause of the swollen lymph nodes. Common associated symptoms include fever and chills in the case of infection, and symptoms specific to the tumor type in the case of cancer. If the lymph nodes are enlarged and inflamed (known as lymphadenitis), the nodes may be painful or tender to the touch.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.