Swollen Lymph Nodes (cont.)
Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH
Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Swollen lymph nodes facts
- What are lymph nodes?
- Where are the lymph nodes located in the body?
- Picture of Lymph Nodes Located in the Body
- What are the causes of swollen lymph nodes?
- What are the symptoms of swollen lymph nodes?
- How are swollen lymph nodes diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for swollen lymph nodes?
- When should I see the doctor for swollen lymph nodes?
- What are the common lymph nodes that may become swollen?
- What are the complications of swollen lymph nodes?
- Find a local Internist in your town
What are the causes of swollen lymph nodes?
There are may causes for swollen lymph nodes, sometimes referred to as "swollen glands" (lymphadenopathy or lymphadenitis). In general, lymph nodes become swollen when they are active either due to an infection, inflammation, or cancer.
Infections are the most common causes of swollen lymph nodes. Common infectious causes of swollen lymph nodes are viral, bacterial, parasites, and fungal. The most common cause of swollen lymph nodes is viral upper respiratory infections such as the common cold.
- Infectious mononucleosis (mono)
- Common cold viruses
- Many other viruses
- Cat scratch disease
- Other sexually transmitted diseases
Many cancers can also cause swelling of lymph nodes. These may be cancers that originate from the lymph nodes or blood cells such as lymphomas and leukemias. They may also be cancers that spread from another organ in the body (metastatic cancers). For example, breast cancer may spread to the nearest lymph nodes in the underarm (axilla), or lung cancer may spread to the lymph nodes around the collar bone.
Other causes of swollen lymph nodes
It is also important to mention that swollen lymph nodes are not always a sign of an underlying disease. Sometimes they can be normal. For example, small (less than 1 centimeter), flat lymph nodes under the jaw (submandibular lymph nodes) in healthy children and young adults or small (up to 2 centimeters), groin lymph nodes (inguinal lymph nodes) in young individuals may be normal.
In many instances, a definitive cause for swollen lymph nodes may not be determined even after performing through examination and testing.
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