Is Cervical Lymphadenopathy Serious?

Reviewed on 3/22/2022
Is cervical lymphadenopathy serious
Cervical lymphadenopathy is not considered a serious condition in itself; however, it may point to certain infections and some types of cancer.

Cervical lymphadenopathy refers to the condition in which swelling occurs in the lymph nodes present in the neck. It is not considered a serious condition in itself, but in a few cases, it may point to certain infections such as tuberculosis and some types of cancer.

A proper treatment plan can help ameliorate the condition. However, a proper evaluation and diagnosis are required in every case.

What is cervical lymphadenopathy?

Being part of the lymphatic system, the lymph nodes protect the body against microbes and play an important role in the body.

Functions of the lymph nodes include:

  • Development of the white blood cells and immunity
  • Maintenance of body fluid levels
  • Removal of waste products

Lymph nodes produce lymphocytes that travel in the bloodstream to combat microbes. Accumulation of excessive lymphocytes causes an increase in the size of the lymph nodes and makes them swollen.

Cervical lymph nodes are small and cannot be felt even after being touched unless the nodes become swollen due to inflammation. Depending on the cause of cervical lymphadenopathy, the condition can be painful or painless for the affected people. In some cases, the affected lymph nodes may feel firm or rubbery or appear to be shifting under the skin.

4 causes cervical lymphadenopathy

A few conditions can cause cervical lymphadenopathy.

Some of the potential causes of the condition are mentioned below:

  1. Infection: If there is an infection in the body, the lymph nodes produce white blood cells (WBCs) that help destroy the pathogens responsible for the condition. Accumulation of WBCs usually causes swelling of the lymph nodes. If cervical lymphadenopathy is caused by an infection, then the nodes become tender and painful to touch, and the condition ameliorates as soon as the infection gets alleviated. Thus, chronic sinusitis, mumps, tooth abscess, gum diseases, ear infections, nasal infections, tonsillar conditions, and laryngitis can all cause cervical lymphadenopathy.
  2. A side effect of medication: Although considered a rare cause, cervical lymphadenopathy can be caused by a reaction to a medication consumed. Antiseizure medications or chemotherapy drugs such as granulocyte colony-stimulating factors can cause swelling of the cervical lymph nodes.
  3. Cancer: Swelling of the cervical lymph nodes can be the indication of an underlying ailment such as cancer. Cancer that affects the lymph nodes of the body is known as lymphoma. Cancer of the head, neck, and face can cause lymph node swelling.
  4. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): HIV is another common cause of cervical lymphadenopathy. In the early or acute stages of HIV, the lymph nodes become prone to swelling.

Apart from the aforementioned causes, other potential causes of cervical lymphadenopathy include:

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What are the symptoms of cervical lymphadenopathy?

The condition is common in children. However, symptoms of cervical lymphadenopathy are more pronounced in adults than in adolescents.

Some of the common symptoms of this condition include:

  • Mild to moderate pain and tenderness in the affected lymph nodes
  • Development of lumps under the jaw and on the sides and back of the neck
  • Sore throat
  • Inflammation and development of lumps in other areas of the body such as the chest, armpits, groin, or stomach
  • Red and inflamed skin
  • Fever and headache
  • Cough and congestion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight and fatigue

When should one visit the doctor?

Medical professionals believe that cervical lymphadenopathy is an indication that the body is combating infection, and usually, the condition ameliorates as soon as the infection heals. However, as mentioned previously, cervical lymphadenopathy can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.

Therefore, an affected individual must visit a doctor if there:

  • Are no other symptoms of infection in the body.
  • Is no subsidence of pain and swelling even after days.
  • Are swollen cervical lymph nodes that are painless to touch.
  • Is a rapid change in the size of the lymph nodes.
  • Is fever, unexpected weight loss, or fatigue.

How is cervical lymphadenopathy diagnosed?

Diagnosis of cervical lymphadenopathy is usually done by the following methods:

  • Physical examination by a doctor by feeling the affected person's neck
  • Throat culture
  • Blood tests
  • X-rays
  • Biopsy of cervical lymph nodes (to check the presence of lymph nodes)

What are the treatment options for cervical lymphadenopathy?

Treatment of this condition depends on the underlying cause.

If cervical lymphadenopathy occurs due to an infection, it does not require treatment unless the swollen nodes become painful. Swollenness of the nodes subsides as soon as the infection ameliorates. A course of antimicrobial medications will help alleviate the condition.

Some commonly used home remedies that can help boost the healing period include:

  • Dabbing aloe vera gel on the affected lymph nodes can help ameliorate the pain. If you develop allergic reactions to aloe vera, you can use coconut oil instead.
  • Consumption of a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and honey in a glass of warm water provides relief to the swollen lymph nodes.
  • Mixing one tablespoon of baking soda and sea salt in a glass of water and drinking one time per day helps with swollen lymph nodes.
  • Preparing a cup of tea made with basil and cinnamon acts as a great remedy for the affected lymph nodes.
  • Gargling is another popular home remedy. It helps relieve symptoms of the swollen lymph glands and ameliorate upper respiratory infections. Mix half a teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water and gargle two to three times a day.
  • Kitchen ingredients such as honey, lemon, nutmeg, onion, and garlic can work wonders for swollen lymph glands.
  • Applying warm and cold compresses can ease soreness.
  • An ancient Asian remedy Panax Ginseng can help treat the condition. You can take 400 mg of ginseng extract once a day for a week for good results. However, medical opinions may vary for this remedy. Therefore, consult your medical advisor and incorporate it into your treatment plan, only once approved.

Apart from the aforementioned remedies, consuming a healthy diet and taking proper rest will help accelerate the healing period.

If cervical lymphadenopathy occurs due to autoimmune conditions, doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to the affected people to combat the condition. However, if the condition is an indication of an underlying ailment such as cancer, then the treatment of cervical lymphadenopathy depends on the type of lymphoma the person has, the stage of cancer, and the person's overall health.

Considering all the parameters, potential treatment options generally include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. Doctors can even prescribe surgical removal of the swollen lymph nodes.

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References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5356393/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7123625/

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