Swollen Glands in the Groin: Anatomy, Causes of Swelling, Symptoms and Treatments

They often swell due to infection or cancer in the areas where lymph (lymph fluid) drains.

Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped nodes of tissue that play a vital role in the body’s defense against disease. They are found in various regions of the body and help filter out pathogenic microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and other foreign antigens.

The lymph glands located in the crease between the inner thigh and the pelvis (groin area) are called inguinal lymph nodes.

Under normal physiological conditions, these glands are not visible or tender on palpation. However, they swell and become inflamed in response to any pathology or disease in and around the areas.

There are two types of inguinal lymph nodes, superficial and deep.

For this reason, swelling of the inguinal lymph nodes is an important clinical indication for pathology within the lower abdominal wall, legs, groin, buttocks, anus, perineum, and external genitalia.

Inguinal (or groin) lymph node anatomy

Lymph nodes are found throughout the body and each group is responsible for draining a particular area. The most common nodes to swell are found in the neck (cervical), armpit (axillary), and groin (inguinal), as well as in numerous other areas of the body.

There are approximately 10 lymph nodes that collectively make up the group known as the superficial lymph nodes.

These drain the skin and subcutaneous tissue (found just under the skin) of the lower abdominal wall below the level of the navel, the gluteal region (buttocks), the perineum, the lower part of the anus, the external genital organs and leg.

Superficial lymph nodes drain into deep inguinal lymph nodes. There are about 3 to 5 of these deep inguinal lymph nodes that filter the lymph back into the circulation.

Causes of swollen groin lymph nodes


Infections in the leg or genitals can cause swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, also those that occur systemically can cause inflammation of these, in any of the three main groups: groin, neck or armpits.

In this sense, some causes may be:

  • Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis, gonococcal infection, soft chancre, herpes simplex, and lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV).
  • The bubonic plague caused by Yersinia Pestis can cause enlargement of the extremely sensitive lymph nodes in the groin, accompanied by redness and swelling of the overlying skin.
  • Viral infections, such as infectious mononucleosis, can affect the entire body and cause widespread swelling of the lymph nodes in various parts of the body, such as the neck, armpit, or groin.
  • Bacterial infections of the skin and subcutaneous tissue, muscles, and bones in the leg or pelvis can also cause swollen lymph nodes in the groin.
  • Toxoplasmosis caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii can also cause swollen glands.

Most people do not have any signs or symptoms of the disease and treatment is not necessary, but in babies born to infected mothers or in immunosuppressed patients such as those with HIV / AIDS, it can develop into a serious infection.

Cancer and Tumors

Many forms of cancer that occur within the area drained by the lymph nodes in the groin will lead to swelling (lymphadenopathy). Lymph node swelling usually occurs due to malignant tumors, among which are:

  • Leukemia: is cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues, including the bone marrow and lymphatic system.
  • Lymphoma: is cancer of the lymph node, it usually begins in this node and can spread to other parts of the body. It could involve groups of lymph nodes in various parts of the body.
  • Pelvic malignancy:  as well as metastasis (or spread) of cancer of the anus or vulva can cause swollen lymph nodes, not related to lymphoma. The enlargement of the lymph node that develops in a known case of cancer will be an indicator of its spread.
  • Melanoma:  is one of the types of skin cancer that can cause swelling of the lymph nodes around the affected area.

Drugs and vaccines

  • Medication: Side effects of certain medications can cause lymph node enlargement, although this is not common. Lymph node enlargement due to drugs is more likely to become widespread.
  • Certain vaccines : For example, the MMR vaccine (for measles, mumps, and rubella) and the typhoid vaccine can also cause widespread lymph node enlargement.

Systemic diseases

  • Patients with known systemic diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis , sarcoidosis, or systemic lupus erythematosus may develop swollen lymph nodes later in the disease. It is usually generalized.
  • Lymphadenitis or inflammation of the lymph nodes that causes swollen nodes is common in children and is often due to a local or generalized infection, usually viral in origin.

This disease can be seen more frequently in developing countries, and generalized enlargement of the lymph nodes indicates extensive spread of the disease.

Some symptoms of swollen lymph nodes

When lymph nodes swell, they can cause mild to moderate pain in that area where they are located. Some commonly reported symptoms are:

  • Tender and painful nodes: When the lymph nodes are enlarged and swollen, it can cause considerable pain in that area and that part becomes tender.
  • Fever and night sweats: People with a respiratory or throat infection likely develop a moderate fever and night sweats along with enlarged lymph nodes.


Symptomatic treatment and home remedies

Pain and discomfort associated with swollen lymph nodes can be relieved by:

A hot compress: Take a clean washcloth and soak it in warm water. Remove excess water and apply the cloth to the affected area for a period of 5-10 minutes.

Massaging the lymph nodes: This will help to eliminate toxins and impurities accumulated in the lymph nodes and subsequently reduce swelling.

Over-the-counter pain relievers : You can take pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, or acetaminophen to relieve pain and inflammation.

However, aspirin can cause serious problems in children and teens who have recently recovered from chickenpox or flu-like symptoms.

Apple Cider Vinegar: Mix water and apple cider vinegar in equal proportions. Soak a clean cloth in the mixture and apply it to the affected area for 5 minutes. Later, rinse with lukewarm water.

Reduces swelling by neutralizing the acidic environment necessary for pathogen colonization and creates a healthy pH level.

Castor oil: applying and massaging the affected lymph nodes with castor oil helps reduce inflammation due to its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory action.

Get enough sleep : For a quick recovery from the underlying disease, you need to get enough rest and sleep.

Consult your doctor for proper treatment of the cause

Totally relying on home remedies or symptomatic treatment for swollen lymph nodes in the groin is not wise.

Always see your doctor if you notice painless or painful enlargement of the groin lymph nodes for no specific reason or when the swelling persists for more than two weeks.

If you also experience symptoms such as sweating, fever, sudden weight loss, tenderness, and malaise, seek medical assistance immediately.

Your doctor will do a complete exam to diagnose the condition and provide you with appropriate treatment.

  • Lymph node enlargement caused by bacterial infections is resolved with antibiotics that target specific pathogenic bacteria. If the swelling persists, you may need further investigation.
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area due to viral infections are mostly treated symptomatically and the swelling usually goes away on its own. However, in the case of HIV infection, more complex treatment is required.
  • In case of immune problems like rheumatoid arthritis, you need thorough investigations and treatment of the problem.
  • If the swollen lymph nodes are due to cancer, then cancer therapy is required which may include surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy. Sometimes new enlargements may indicate a recurrence of previously treated cancer.