Exploring the Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

image of woman's neck and clavicle

Swollen Lymph Nodes

If you’re feeling tenderness around your throat or noticing the area around your armpits is a bit painful to touch, you might be experiencing swollen lymph nodes. 

While this condition is highly common among the population, you should still be aware of the causes of swollen lymph nodes. Then, you can pick a path of treatment that’s right for you.

[Related: ENT Meaning: What Is an ENT, and When Should You See One?]

What Are Lymph Nodes?

First things first: What are lymph nodes? 

Lymph nodes, sometimes referred to as lymph glands, are small round cell clusters that store your body’s healthy white blood cells. They play a vital role in your body’s immune system by fighting off infections and trapping viruses, abnormal cells and harmful bacteria before they can infect the rest of your body. 

While your body actually has upward of 600 lymph nodes, you’re probably most familiar with the ones around your neck, chin, armpits and groin. These nodes are in easy-to-notice areas when they begin to swell.

Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes

Here are some of the symptoms you might notice if your lymph nodes are swollen:

  • Moderate pain or tenderness in the lymph node area when you lightly touch it, move, chew or swallow
  • Swelling as small as a kidney bean in the lymph node area
  • Runny nose, sore throat or another sign of respiratory infection
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

When your lymph nodes swell, it may or may not be obvious visually. However, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of swollen lymph nodes because they’re signs that something is wrong somewhere in your body. 

[Related: How To Treat Seasonal Allergies]

Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

Because lymph nodes are essentially your immune system’s “security gate,” it makes sense that when you’re sick, they’re one of the first things to feel off-kilter. 

When your lymph nodes detect and stop bacteria, viruses or other abnormal cells from reaching the rest of your body, they can become overloaded with that “bad stuff,” as well as the white blood cells your body needs to fight them off.

Common infections like these can cause lymph nodes to swell: 

  • Strep throat
  • Ear infections
  • Common colds
  • Tooth infections
  • Mononucleosis
  • Wound infections
  • HIV

They can also swell due to immune system disorders, including lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as cancers like lymphoma, leukemia and other metastasized cancers. 

In some cases, you may experience swollen lymph nodes due to antiseizure medications, an allergic reaction to medication, gingivitis or mouth sores. 

Can Allergies Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Yes, allergies can cause swollen lymph nodes. Seasonal and environmental allergies may trigger your immune system, causing the lymphatic system to swell with white blood cells.

Can COVID Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

They’re not one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19. However, if you’re experiencing a runny nose, fever or sore throat as a result of the coronavirus, you may also experience swollen lymph nodes.

Can Stress Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

It’s unclear whether a scientific or medical link lies between stress and swollen lymph nodes. However, mental stress can sometimes partner with physical symptoms of stress. In turn, these physical symptoms may trigger an immune response that could cause your lymph nodes to swell.

Can Lack of Sleep Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

While you may feel groggy and not your best from lack of sleep, poor sleep alone won’t cause your lymph nodes to swell. But little sleep because of a virus or infection may cause swollen lymph nodes.

[Related: 7 New Year’s Resolutions To Improve Your ENT Health]

Treatments for Swollen Lymph Nodes

Generally, you can easily treat mild cases of swollen lymph nodes at home. All you need are some warm compresses and a few days before you should start seeing the swelling go down. 

However, if you’re suffering from an infection, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotic or antiviral medication to treat the underlying condition. Some doctors might recommend acetaminophen or ibuprofen to decrease inflammation and tenderness in the meantime. 

If you’re suffering from swollen lymph nodes due to cancer or another serious illness, lymph nodes may not go back to “normal” until a doctor treats the illness. Your doctor will discuss which treatment method is right for you.

Note: See a doctor immediately if you’re concerned that your lymph nodes aren’t returning to their normal state. For example, they may continue to enlarge, feel hard or rubbery or come with a persistent fever.

Take Care of Your ENT Health With Dr. Matorin

If you’re concerned about your swollen lymph nodes or want more information on the underlying causes, connect with Dr. Matorin, Houston ENT. Dr. Matorin is ready to help you breathe easier and live a fuller life with fewer worries. 

Take the first step and schedule an appointment at our clinic today.


Featured image via Unsplash



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