Swollen lymph nodes are your body’s natural reaction to illness or infection. These small lumps are soft, tender and often painful. The most common cause of swollen lymph nodes is an upper respiratory infection, but they can have many causes.
Causes of Lymphadenopathy
The most common cause of lymph node swelling in your neck is an upper respiratory infection.
These infections can take 10 to 14 days to resolve completely. As soon as you start feeling better, the swelling should go down as well. But it may take a few weeks longer to go away completely.
Other bacteria and viruses that may cause your swollen lymph nodes include:
Cold and flu.
Sinus infection (sinusitis).
Symptoms of Lymphadenopathy
Lymphadenopathy is actually a symptom that could mean you have an illness or infection.
Your healthcare provider may examine your swollen lymph nodes to determine what’s causing the swelling. They’ll evaluate your swollen lymph nodes for:
Pain or tenderness when touched.
Consistency (hard or rubbery).
Matting (whether they feel joined or move together).
Location (specific diseases can be tied to where the swollen lymph nodes are in your body).
Diagnosis of Lymphadenopathy
In cervical lymphadenopathy (of the neck), it is routine to perform a throat examination including the use of a mirror and an endoscope.
On ultrasound, B-mode imaging depicts lymph node morphology, whilst power Doppler can assess the vascular pattern.
B-mode imaging features that can distinguish metastasis and lymphoma include size, shape, calcification, loss of hilar architecture, as well as intranodal necrosis.
Soft tissue edema and nodal matting on B-mode imaging suggests tuberculous cervical lymphadenitis or previous radiation therapy.
Serial monitoring of nodal size and vascularity are useful in assessing treatment response.
Fine needle aspiration cytology (FNAC) has sensitivity and specificity percentages of 81% and 100%, respectively, in the histopathology of malignant cervical lymphadenopathy.
PET-CT has proven to be helpful in identifying occult primary carcinomas of the head and neck, especially when applied as a guiding tool prior to panendoscopy, and may induce treatment related clinical decisions in up to 60% of cases.
Prevention of Lymphadenopathy
Avoid touching your eyes and nose.
Staying away from people who are sick.
Disinfect surfaces in your home or workspace.
Getting enough sleep, eating healthy and exercising.
Treatment of Lymphadenopathy
If swollen lymph nodes are only found in one area of your body, it’s called localized swollen lymph nodes.
And most of the time, you have a virus so there’s no treatment truly needed and it will just run its course.
The nodes will gradually shrink back to their normal size.
For some infections, your healthcare provider might recommend medicine to help clear it up.
Generalized swollen lymph nodes mean you have them in two or more areas of your body.
This usually points to a more serious systemic (meaning it’s all over your body) disease.