Lymph node swelling: possible causes

Swollen lymph nodes? Often an infection is the cause, for example a cold. More rarely, a serious illness is the trigger

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The lentil- to bean-sized lymph nodes belong to the lymphatic system and are therefore part of the body's defenses. The nodes are located in many parts of the body, larger ones are found on the neck, in the groin and under the armpits.

Lymph nodes contain a type of white blood cell called lymphocytes. The nodes act as filter stations and absorb foreign substances and pathogens (bacteria, viruses) from the lymph. As a result of their defensive work, they swell (lymph node inflammation / lymphadenitis).

Since certain lymph nodes are responsible for certain areas of the body, their swelling gives an indication of where an illness is taking place in the body. Lymph node swelling is called local, if only one body region is affected, and generalized, if there are several.

Certain diseases affect the lymph nodes or the lymph system directly. These include, for example, Hodgkin's disease or non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

The following overview offers only a selection of important causes of lymph node swelling. It is not complete and should not be understood as a guide to self-diagnosis. Only the doctor can make the diagnosis.

Swollen lymph nodes due to bacterial infections

Lymph node swellings are typical, for example, as an accompanying symptom of tonsillitis and scarlet fever. Here the cervical lymph nodes are affected on one or both sides.

Tuberculosis - which is rare in Germany today - primarily affects the lungs, but can also affect other organs, mucous membranes and bones. Tuberculosis can also hide behind a swelling of the lymph nodes - mainly on the neck. Another bacterial infection that causes lymph node swelling is syphilis.

Swollen lymph nodes from viral infections

Lymph node swelling can occur as a result of a cold (flu infection) or a viral flu (influenza). Among other things, rhino, adeno and influenza viruses are possible triggers.

Pfeiffer's glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis) is caused by an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus. In addition to fever - generally painless - lymph node swellings are a typical concomitant phenomenon. They usually occur on the neck and neck, less often under the armpits and on the groin. Headache and body aches are other symptoms.

Lymph node swelling can also occur in infections with measles or rubella viruses.

When infected for the first time with the HI virus (acute HIV infection), some people affected experience symptoms that are similar to those of a flu-like infection shortly after being infected. In addition to fever, headache, neck pain and aching limbs, lymph node swellings that are sensitive to pressure tend to become noticeable in several parts of the body. Another indication of an HIV infection in this case is that the lymph node swelling sometimes lasts for a quarter of a year or longer.

Swollen lymph nodes in cancer

Many cancers also affect lymph nodes, in which cancer cells settle and cause them to swell (lymph node mestasis). In breast cancer (breast cancer) it is typically the axillary lymph nodes, in colon, uterine and prostate cancer often the inguinal lymph nodes, in lung, thyroid, nose and stomach cancer the cervical lymph nodes.

Hodgkin's disease (Hodgkin's disease, lymphogranulomatosis) is a malignant cancer of the lymphatic system. The first symptoms are painless swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the neck, possibly also in the armpits or groin. In addition, there may be fever, night sweats, fatigue and weight loss.

The term non-Hodgkin lymphoma covers all malignant diseases of the lymphatic system that do not have the characteristics of Hodgkin's disease. These include, for example, various forms of leukemia, immunocytoma, Burkitt's lymphoma and multiple myeloma.

Important NOTE:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-treatment. He can not substitute a visit at the doctor. Unfortunately, our experts cannot answer individual questions.

Lymphatic system cold infection