Swollen lymph nodes generally show a common infection, but they can also indicate a medical condition, such as an immune disorder or, rarely, a type of cancer. Lymph nodes are small, round structures that are used in fighting against foreign invaders. Swollen lymph nodes are also called swollen glands.ca
In this article, we look at the causes of swollen lymph nodes, when to see a doctor and treatment options.
What are swollen lymph nodes?
The immune cells in lymph nodes help protect the body against infection. The lymph nodes gather and filter fluids, waste materials, and harmful germs. There are many lymph nodes in the human body. The major lymph nodes that people may see or feel are located:
- under the jaw
- on each side of the neck
- Beneath the armpits
- on either side of the groin
Lymph fluid moves in and out of the lymph nodes throughout the body before finally making its way back to the chest. While doing so, it collects and traps harmful substances, such as bacteria, viruses, and bodily waste products. The lymph nodes filter the fluid and send it back into the bloodstream together with salts and proteins.
Lymph nodes also contain immune cells that help protect the body by attacking the germs that the body’s lymph fluid has collected. The lymph nodes may swell when a person has a temporary infection. The swelling happens as a result of immune cell activity in the lymph nodes.
The location of the swelling often relates to the affected area. For example, an ear infection may lead to swollen lymph nodes near the ear, while someone with an upper respiratory tract infection may notice swollen lymph nodes in their neck.