Thumbnail image of: Lymph Nodes and Vessels: Illustration

Lymph Nodes, Enlarged

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs. They are part of the lymph system and can be found in groups or just one by itself. The lymph system is part of your body’s system for fighting infection. The lymph system consists of lymph nodes that store blood cells (lymphocytes) to fight infection and vessels that carry fluid, nutrients, and wastes between your body and your bloodstream. You have lymph nodes in your neck, armpits, groin, and in other places in your body. When the nodes get bigger (enlarged), you may notice lumps in your neck, armpits, or groin.

Lymph nodes are also called lymph glands even though they are not really glands.

What causes enlarged lymph nodes?

The nodes get bigger when they fight germs or cancer. For example, they may become enlarged because of:

  • Infection in the part of the body near the swollen nodes, such as infected sores and wounds
  • Infections such as colds, flu, sore throat, strep throat, ear infections, mononucleosis, and tuberculosis
  • Diseases such as Hodgkin’s disease and other types of cancer

Once the lymph nodes become enlarged, they often do not completely go back to their original size. It is not unusual, for example, to feel enlarged lymph nodes in the groin because of a previous injury to the legs, such as a stubbed toe or skinned knee.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms of enlarged lymph nodes may include:

  • One or more swollen lumps
  • Tenderness when the glands are touched
  • Nodes that are hard and not movable

How are they treated?

Lymph nodes that are swollen for more than a couple of weeks should be checked by your healthcare provider. Treatment is not always needed, but when it is, the treatment depends on why the nodes are enlarged.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Ask your provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-09-08
Last reviewed: 2014-06-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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