Lymphadenopathy – Definition and Causes


Lymphadenopathy is a disease of the lymph nodes (lymph glands) in the form of abnormalities in size, number, and density. Inflammation of lymphadenopathy (the most common type) is lymphadenitis, in which the lymph nodes swell.

Lymph nodes are organs in the form of peas that are spread under the armpits, folds of the thighs, neck, chest, and abdomen. This gland is a system of lymph that carries liquids, nutrients and waste material between body tissues and blood flow.

The lymph system is an important part of the immune system, the body’s defense system against disease. Lymph nodes have a filter so that the fluid that passes through them is free of bacteria , viruses, and other foreign substances. In addition, white blood cells called lymphocytes are also responsible for destroying the wastes contained in the lymph nodes.

For information, lymph nodes can be found singly or clustered in a group. Lymph nodes can be felt in the neck, groin and armpits. Lymph nodes are generally not tender or painful. Most lymph nodes in the body cannot be felt. Common locations for swollen lymph nodes include the neck, groin and armpits.

Causes of Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes often swell in one location when there are problems such as injury, infection, or a tumor that develops in a limb that is close to the lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes can help identify where the problem is.

  • Glands on both sides of the neck, under the jaw, or behind the ear often swell when you have a cold or sore throat. The gland can also swell after an injury, such as because the tongue is bitten, or when a tumor or infection occurs in the mouth, head, or neck.
  • Underarm glands (axillary lymph nodes) can swell from injury or infection in the arm or hand. A rare cause of armpit swelling may be breast cancer or lymphoma which occurs when metastasis from tumor cells.
  • Lymph nodes in the groin (femoral or inguinal lymph nodes) can swell from injury or infection in the legs, legs, groin, or genitals. In rare cases, testicular cancer, lymphoma, or melanoma can cause lumps in this area.
  • Glands above the collarbone (supraclavicular lymph nodes) can swell from infection or tumors in the lung, breast, neck, or stomach area.
  • When the lymph nodes swell in two areas of the body or more, it is called generalized lymphadenopathy.

Another cause of lymph nodes may be caused by:

  • Viral diseases, such as measles, rubella, smallpox (varicella), or goiter.
  • Mononucleosis infection (Epstein-Barr virus), which produces fever, sore throat, and fatigue, or cytomegalovirus (CMV), a viral infection that causes symptoms similar to mononucleosis.
  • Bacterial diseases, such as sore throat (caused by streptococcal bacteria) or Lyme disease (a bacterial infection spread by several types of lice).
  • Side effects of phenytoin (Dilantin), a drug used to prevent seizures.
  • Side effects of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination.
  • Cancer, such as leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which develops after a person is exposed to HIV ( human immunodeficiency virus ). This virus attacks the immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight infection and eventually develop several diseases.
  • Syphilis , a sexually transmitted infection.

Treatment for swollen glands focuses on treating the cause. For example, a bacterial infection can be treated with antibiotics, while a viral infection can disappear on its own. If the cancer is suspected, a biopsy can be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Any swollen lymph nodes that don’t go away or don’t return to normal size in about a month should be examined by a doctor. Lymph nodes can remain swollen or hard after the initial infection is gone. This is especially true for children, where the gland can be reduced but remain firm and visible for weeks.

But if lymphadenopathy is caused by another disease, it is also necessary to treat the disease that is the cause. For example in lymph node cancer, usually treatment of cancer is also needed and subsequent treatment can be done with chemotherapy and radiation methods.

Lymphadenopathy cannot be completely prevented. But the risk of developing lymphadenopathy can be lowered if a person undergoes a healthy lifestyle, namely:

  • Eat lots of fiber foods
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Do not smoke
  • Maintain an ideal body weight.
  • Enough sleep.

The following are the treatment methods that can be done for lymphadenitis, including:

  • If lymphadenitis is caused by a tumor or cancer, the patient can undergo surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, or radiotherapy.
  • Flowing abscesses or pus. This method is done to treat lymphadenitis which has developed into an abscess. Pus will flow through a small incision on the skin made in the abscess area. After the incision is made, the pus is allowed to leave itself, then the incision is closed using a sterile bandage.
  • Drugs. Antibiotics, antiviral, or antifungals will be given by doctors to treat lymphadenitis caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi . In addition, if needed, the doctor will provide nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (eg ibuprofen) if the patient experiences symptoms of pain and fever due to lymphadenitis.

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