Lymph glands occur in complexes (groups) in different parts of the body.
The enlargement of the lymph nodes is known as lymphadenopathy .
These groups, as well as individual lymph nodes, are connected through very fine channels called lymphatics.
Lymphatics are a thick cell layer and form a network throughout the body.
The fluid found in the lymphatics collects between cells in tissues in different parts of the body.
Once the fluid has been collected from the tissues and is running into the lymph nodes, it is called lymph. Lymph nodes serve as filters for lymph.
Once the fluid in the lymphatic vessels has been removed from the collected toxins from the entire body, it drains into one of the main veins in the neck.
Causes of swollen lymph nodes
When lymph leaks through the lymph nodes, all unwanted bacteria and all other potentially harmful agents, such as cancer cells , get trapped in these filters and then establish an immune response in the lymph node.
Once the harmful organism or bacteria has been trapped and recognized as harmful, the lymph node swells to produce specially programmed fighting cells capable of recognizing and attacking unwanted invaders.
Swollen lymph nodes can occur even if the infection is trivial or not obvious.
The swelling is usually due to a localized or systemic infection, abscess formation, response to vaccines, or malignant tumors (cancer).
Infectious agents include a large number of viruses and bacteria.
Infection is the most common cause of enlarged lymph nodes; Other causes are extremely rare.
Diagnosis of swollen lymph nodes
In most cases, the diagnosis is obvious and can be made only by clinical evaluation.
Clinical evaluation includes a history of local infection or systemic disease and palpation and observation of inflamed nodules.
If the swollen lymph nodes are confined to one area, for example the groin, that area for lymphatic drainage should be examined.
In the case of the groin, this includes the entire lower extremities, abdomen, genitals, and pelvis.
When a cause of enlarged glands in one complex is not obvious, it is important that the other lymph gland complexes be examined.
If several lymph nodes are inflamed in most complexes, that is, generalized lymphadenopathy, this indicates the presence of a systemic disease (affects the whole body).
It could be a condition such as glandular fever or a more serious condition such as HIV, leukemia (cancer of the blood), or lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes).
To help find the cause of the swollen lymph nodes, the doctor will note the site or area where the lymph nodes are enlarged, the size and consistency of the enlarged node, whether the lymph nodes are fixed, and the appearance of the lymph nodes. lymph nodes.
Additional diagnostic procedures
When local or regional infection is obvious and the probable cause of swollen lymph nodes in a specific area, physical examination is sufficient for diagnosis.
Sometimes, however, it is necessary to identify the cause of the swollen gland by examining a sample under the microscope – this is called a tissue diagnosis.
A tissue diagnosis can be done in two ways:
- The first investigation is called a fine needle aspiration biopsy.
- With this research, a thin needle connected to a syringe is inserted into a gland, and through suction, part of the tissue is drawn into the needle.
- It is then sprayed onto a glass slide, fixed with a special spray, and sent to a laboratory for staining and examination under a microscope.
- The second method is lymph node biopsy.
If a diagnosis cannot be made from the few cells inspected under the microscope or if the swollen lymph glands are too small or in an area too difficult for fine needle aspiration biopsy, a lymph node biopsy is needed.
Here specialized surgery is needed to remove an entire lymph gland under local anesthesia.
Thick slices are then cut from a removed lymph gland cell for examination under the microscope, using special staining methods.
Overview of swollen lymph nodes
The size of the swollen lymph nodes
The size of the swollen glands is important.
As a general rule of thumb, a lymph node is significantly enlarged when it is more than one centimeter in length.
The consistency of swollen lymph nodes
Swollen lymph glands due to infection are usually soft. With lymphoma (cancer of lymphatic tissue), the swollen glands feel rubbery.
Hard rocky nodules usually indicate an enlarged lymph node due to a cancerous growth in the area.
For example, a rocky nodule in the armpit could indicate that a lesion seen on a chest X-ray is cancerous.
Lymph node tenderness
Lymph glands that are swollen due to an infection in the area or that contain an abscess are tender when palpated.
Slow-growing and persistent lymph glands are painless and often go unnoticed, but are of concern once detected.
Tangled lymph glands are a sure sign of tuberculosis.
When lymph nodes are attached to each other or to other structures, it is important to consult a doctor, as this may indicate malignancy or tuberculosis.
Overlying skin appearance
When the skin overlying the inflamed gland is red, swollen, and tender to the touch, there is an underlying infection.
An “orange peel” appearance, or tethering (attachment to the lymph glands) of the overlying skin indicates a cancerous growth.
Lymph node location
Individual groups of lymph glands are located in specific areas of the body.
The area in which the lymph node swelling occurs is important as it is situated in one area or if multiple lymph node complexes are involved.
If only one lymphatic gland complex is involved, the lymphadenopathy is called “localized.”
“Generalized lymphadenopathy” refers to the situation when inflammation is present in most areas of the lymph glands.
When swollen lymph nodes are felt, it is very important to palpate all possible areas, to establish whether the lymphadenopathy is localized or generalized.
This is important to understand the causes of swollen lymph nodes.
There are five different lymph gland complexes, described from the head down:
Head and neck
The first complex is located in the head and neck area, which includes:
- The area just below the chin; the area along the bottom of the jaw.
- The area down the front of the neck or throat, on either side of the windpipe.
- The area along the back of the neck on either side of the midline; and the area behind and in front of the ears.
- The hollow area above the clavicles.
- The lymph glands in these areas are usually enlarged very often.
- In most cases, enlargement is related to simple upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold or the flu, caused by a variety of different viruses and bacteria.
- Symptoms may include a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, earaches, and possibly ear discharge.
- Tonsils are also part of the lymph node system, and tonsillitis is inflammation of the lymph node tissue itself.
- Of concern are swollen lymph nodes in the hollow above the clavicle, especially on the left side, this could indicate a malignant or cancerous growth in the lung, stomach, or elsewhere in the intestines.
The condition generally occurs in the population that smokes and may be associated with symptoms such as:
- Weight loss.
- Chronic cough.
- A change in bowel habits, for example, diarrhea, blood in the stool, constipation, abdominal pain, and vomiting.
Axillary lymphatic gland complex
The second lymph gland complex, the axillary lymph node complex, is located under the arm.
Swollen lymph glands in this area can be difficult to feel.
The arm on the side where the lymph nodes are examined should be kept in a relaxed position, hanging on one side of the body, while the other hand should be deeply palpated in all areas of the armpit.
Swollen glands in this area commonly occur with sinus infections, including abscesses, often associated with breastfeeding in women.
Swollen glands due to infection are often tender.
Direct inflammation or abscess formation of the lymph gland itself can occur, more often in diabetics, and causes an exquisitely tender lump, which often needs to be surgically drained.
Swollen lymph nodes that form as a result of breast cancer are of concern.
In these cases, a breast lump is also present and usually occurs in women over 35 years of age.
An enlarged lymph node with breast cancer indicates cancer that is already spreading and a doctor should be seen right away.
It is very important for women to examine their own breasts regularly.
Very hard and persistent lymph nodes present in the armpit area may indicate underlying lung cancer.
Again, this usually occurs in a person who smokes, with associated symptoms such as a chronic cough and weight loss.
Epitrochlear complex of the gland
Another lymphatic gland complex located in the arm is located just below the biceps muscle on the inside of the arm, near the elbow.
These nodes, called epitrochlear glands, can also be difficult to feel, but their examination is very important.
Swollen glands in this area are cause for concern and may be indicative of:
- A local infection.
- An HIV infection (more often).
- Cancer of the lymph nodes (lymphoma).
- A disease like syphilis in rare cases.
Inguinal lymph gland complex
These lymph glands are located in the groin area and are usually inflamed due to a local infection, although small, firm mobile glands are commonly found in normal individuals.
Blood and lymph from the toes to the pelvis, including the sex organs, seep through these glands and are therefore often inflamed.
These often occur in children who walk barefoot and hit and injure their toes, thus creating a port of entry for foreign organisms and bacteria.
In adults, genital infections, including sexually transmitted diseases, can be a cause of swollen and tender glands.
If this is a probable cause of lymphadenopathy, a doctor should be consulted.
Internal lymph glands
The last group of lymphatic glands are located within the body cavities, including the chest and abdomen.
These glands cannot be felt externally and generally do not become inflamed without enlargement of the external lymphatic glands.
The glands in this area include the mesenteric lymph gland complex, as indicated in the diagram.
Treatment of swollen lymph nodes
Swollen lymph nodes are part of the body’s natural defense mechanism against infection or invasion by abnormal cells, such as cancers.
Therefore, treatment is not directed at the swollen lymph nodes as such, but at the underlying cause of the enlargement.
Often no treatment is necessary, with a healthy immune system invading organisms are destroyed and the lymph nodes will regain their normal size.
Additional investigation, including tissue diagnosis, is required when any of the following are present:
- Persistently swollen lymph glands.
- Generalized lymphadenopathy.
- The lymphatic glands appear very hard when palpated.
- Very large lymph glands.
- Attachment to other structures.
Specific treatment for swollen lymph nodes will be determined by the doctor based on the following:
- Age, general health, and medical history.
- The extent of the condition.
- The tolerance shown by the patient to medications, some procedures or therapies.
- The expectations that are had for the course of each specific situation.
Treatment may include:
- Antibiotics are prescribed orally or intravenously to treat any infection. underlying bacterial. Antibiotics or antivirals usually clear a simple infection in the skin or tissue, and the nodes gradually return to their normal size.
- HIV / AIDS infection.
Treatment In cases where the lymph nodes are swollen due to HIV infection, the patient should be given a specific treatment for this condition.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs.
- The doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and swelling.
Surgery may be necessary to drain an abscess. If a lymph node becomes infected, an abscess can form.
The swelling will usually go down quickly when the abscess drains.
To do this, the doctor will first numb the area. Then he makes a small cut that will allow the infected pus to escape.
The area may require gauze drainage to ensure removal of pus and prompt healing.
- Continuous evaluation (to verify the size and location of the extended nodes).
- After treatment, an observation period of three to four weeks is recommended to make sure there are no further problems.
- Medications or procedures (to treat other conditions that may have caused lymph nodes to enlarge).
For severe systemic infections, immune disorders, more aggressive treatments will be needed for a longer period of time.
When lymph nodes become swollen as a result of certain conditions, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, treatment is directed at the underlying condition.
If the swollen lymph nodes are due to a cancerous tumor, there are several treatment options. These include surgery to remove the tumor, chemotherapy, and radiation.
In case of pain the doctor may recommend medications to control the pain.
If the swollen lymph nodes are caused by a virus infection, they usually return to normal after the virus infection has resolved.
Antibiotics are not used to fight viral infections, as they are not effective.
Natural treatments for swollen glands due to minor causes
The use of raw garlic in the anti-inflammatory processes of the lymph nodes has been reported by several studies, it is believed that chemical compounds found in garlic such as allicin act specifically.
Garlic is also highly effective in fighting countless bacteria that are responsible for infections in the body.
These antimicrobial properties are also antiviral and antifungal and can help relieve infections that cause inflammatory processes in the lymph nodes.
2 to 3 raw garlic cloves are crushed and eaten every day until the infection clears.
Cutting the garlic activates the allinase enzymes in the garlic cells, which produce the allicin that helps treat infections.
The bactericidal activities of Manuka honey have been reported, including against antibiotic resistant bacteria that can cause infections that inflame the lymph nodes.
The researchers suggest that because Manuka honey, and even raw honey, has a low pH level and high sugar content, it can prevent the growth of microbes.
Manuka honey, in particular, can stop the growth of bacteria throughout the body and help treat bacterial infections that cause swollen lymph nodes.
Colloidal silver can be used as a natural remedy for swollen lymph nodes.
It adheres to the cell membranes of bacteria directly and produces breath-blocking effects.
An advantage of colloidal silver is that unlike antibiotics, it does not create resistance or immunity in the microorganisms it fights.
Instead, colloidal silver destroys pathogens that cause disease and infection within minutes of exposure.
Colloidal silver also shows anti-inflammatory activity and can help reduce pain and swelling associated with swollen lymph nodes.
Take one drop of colloidal silver or add five drops to a glass to treat an infection. It should be noted that you should not use it for more than 14 days in a row.
Apple cider vinegar
The acetic acid contained in apple cider vinegar has an advantage: it has the unique ability to fight bacteria and at the same time encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria for the body.
This gives apple cider vinegar an immune property, as it is a natural antibiotic that improves the immune system.
Apple cider vinegar is used as a lymphatic tonic for detoxification of the body and for the promotion of lymphatic drainage.
This helps the lymph nodes do their job, protecting the body against disease and fighting bacteria.
To treat infections that can cause symptoms of swollen lymph nodes, it is recommended to take 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water three times a day.
You can also try soaking a clean cloth in apple cider vinegar and applying it to the swollen lymph node.
Vitamin C plays an important role in the stressed autoimmune system that is fighting an infection in the body.
It also minimizes the risks of developing complications from infectious processes, which lead to swollen lymph nodes.
Because swollen lymph nodes are a sign of an infection that already exists in the body, it is recommended to take a mega dose of vitamin C, which is 4,000 milligrams for adults, and to consume foods containing vitamin C such as :
- The grapefruit.
- The oranges.
Astragalus root is recommended to reduce inflammation of the lymph nodes that cause viral infections, such as mononucleosis.
Due to its antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory potential.
Astragalus is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a wide variety of bodily illnesses and disorders due to its immune-boosting effects.
Astragalus can be taken as a tincture or capsule, or purchased dry and added to hot water and consumed as a tea.
Oregano essential oil
Studies show that oregano oil has antibacterial activity against some antibiotic resistant bacterial strains.
Oil of oregano is also effective against viral and fungal infections.
The benefits of oregano oil, unlike antibiotics, its use to treat infections does not have harmful side effects, such as also eliminating healthy bacteria and increasing the risks of developing digestive disorders.
To treat an infection that is causing enlarged lymph nodes, taking oregano oil for up to two weeks can help. It is recommended to dilute them with water for oral administration.
Tea tree essential oil
Research conducted in India shows that tea tree oil is effective against bacteria and can help fight infection.
Studies show that when applying tea tree oil, there was an immediate effect followed by a slow release effect over a 24 hour period.
This means that after using tea tree oil, there is an initial cellular response. The oil then continues to work within the body to fight the infection.
Tea tree oil is not for internal use. Nebulizations can be made by inhaling it directly or by impregnating the environment with it, applying it topically to the area where the swollen nodes are.
When using tea tree on the skin, use just a few drops and dilute it in equal parts coconut oil.
Applying cold compresses to the area where the swollen glands are can help decrease pain and swelling.
It is recommended to do it for 10 to 15 minutes and several times a day until the swelling subsides.
Adding 1 to 2 drops of tea tree oil to the compress will help fight the infection that is causing the swollen glands.
Elevating the affected part of the body is also recommended to help relieve swelling and pain.