Swollen lymph nodes are a common symptom - the swelling can be caused by, among other things, a cold, flu or tonsillitis. A serious illness, however, is only in rare cases behind the complaints. Lymph nodes are distributed all over the body - they are particularly noticeable on the neck, neck and ears as well as under the armpits and in the groin area. We tell you what you can do with swollen lymph nodes and when to see a doctor.
Function of the lymph nodes
The lymph nodes play a central role in our defense system: If pathogens occur in the body, antibodies and special white blood cells - the lymphocytes - are formed in the lymph nodes and then released into the blood. This process can cause swelling of the lymph nodes. Swelling therefore indicates that the lymph node is active.
At certain points in the body, the lymph nodes frequently appear, for example, on the neck, in the neck, under the armpits, in the chest, in the abdomen as well as in the groin area. The lymph nodes, which are usually only a few millimeters in size, are well networked with each other. They form filter stations in which the tissue fluid - the lymph - is cleaned.
Swollen lymph nodes as a symptom
Swollen lymph nodes do not necessarily indicate a malignant disease - usually they are triggered by harmless infectious diseases such as a flu or tonsillitis. If this is the case, the lymph nodes respond to pressure usually sensitive to pain.
A serious cause such as cancer is only about one percent behind the symptoms. In contrast to a cold or tonsillitis, the swelling of malignant tumors usually increases slowly. In addition, the swollen lymph nodes cause no pain.
In some diseases, only the lymph nodes are affected in a specific region - often then a local inflammation is the trigger: Thus, in swollen lymph nodes in the throat, a cold can be the cause. If the lymph nodes swell in several areas at the same time, bacterial or viral infectious diseases may be the trigger. However, it is also conceivable that diseases of the immune or lymphatic system or the chronic fatigue syndrome behind it.
What are the causes?
Swollen lymph nodes indicate nodular activity. The most common causes of the swelling include:
- Bacterial or viral infectious diseases
- Thyroid disorders
- Benign or malignant lymphomas
- Diseases of the salivary glands
- Diseases of the connective tissue
The following is an overview of various body regions where swollen lymph nodes are particularly common.
Cancer as a cause of swollen lymph nodes
Tumors in the lymphatic system are called lymphomas. They can be both good and bad. In malignant lymphomas, a distinction is made between two different types - Hodgkin's syndrome and Non-Hodgkin's syndrome.
Swelling of the lymph nodes, however, can not only occur through tumors in the lymphatic system. Also cancer in neighboring organs or leukemia can cause such symptoms. In addition to cancer, other serious illnesses can be behind swollen lymph nodes. For example, they may indicate an infection with HIV or tuberculosis.
Swollen lymph nodes in children
Not only in adults, but also in children, the lymph nodes can swell. This immune system response is much more common in children than in adults, as children with many germs first come into contact. If pathogens are found in the body, the production of immune cells in the lymph nodes is raised. This can lead to a swelling of the nodes.
Although it is not uncommon for children to swollen lymph nodes for several weeks, you should consult a doctor for safety. He can clarify whether not a serious illness is behind the complaints.
Treat swollen lymph nodes
The treatment of swollen lymph nodes is always dependent on the cause of the complaints. Most complaints resolve after a few days by itself. If a bacterial infection is the trigger, it can be treated in more severe cases with antibiotics. In the case of viral infections, only further symptoms that occur, such as fever, are usually treated - in some cases, however, the use of a virostat can also make sense.
If the swelling of the lymph nodes persists for an extended period or if the symptoms return, a doctor should be consulted. This also applies if the following additional symptoms occur:
- strong pain
- high fever
- difficulty in breathing
- severe dysphagia
In such cases, make sure to make an appointment with a doctor to rule out a serious condition. The first point of contact is usually the general practitioner, who may refer you to a specialist such as an internist, an ear, nose and throat doctor, a dentist or an oncologist.