Causes and Treatment for Painful Swollen Lymph Node in Armpit

When you notice swollen lymph node in armpit, you surely want to know what the reason for this sudden swelling of glands is. Lymph nodes are tiny bean shaped structures present in clusters in many parts of the body. They are easily palpable when enlarged in cervical region of the neck, under the armpits, and in the groins.

Lymph nodes are part of lymphatic system and their main function is to trap the bacteria and other dead materials while they pass through the lymphatic system.

Most of the times swollen lymph node in armpits is caused due to infection, but it can be a sign of cancer especially of breast cancer, as the lymphatic fluid from the breast drains in those lymph nodes. You have to consult your physician when you feel enlarged lymph nodes in your armpits. Lymph nodes in armpit are also called axillary lymph nodes. Breast, arm and thoracic wall are the three regions from where the lymphatic fluid is drained in the axillary lymph nodes. Any infection or inflammatory conditions in these regions can cause swelling of lymph nodes in the armpits.

Following are the Causes for Swollen Lymph Nodes in Armpits

  • Bacterial Infection: Localized infection in arm or on the breast or in the armpits such as an abscess or a boil, cat scratch disease, ascending lymphangitis etc.
  • Viral Infection: Herpes, infectious mononucleosis, HIV etc.
  • Fungal Infection: Sporotrichosis.
  • Malignant Disease: Breast cancer, lung cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, leukemia.
  • Swelling after Vaccine: Typhoid vaccine, MMR,
  • Allergy: Allergic reaction to certain drugs.

Painful lymph nodes in the armpits are due to rapid increase in their size. Pain and tenderness is felt when the capsule is stretched. Pain is usually because of suppuration or inflammation. A person can also feel pain when there is hemorrhage in the lymph node due to necrosis caused as result of malignancy. It has to be kept in mind that pain and tenderness do not necessarily differentiate between benign and malignant nodes. However its consistency is very important to clinically judge malignant nodes. Stony hard lymph nodes are sign of metastatic cancer. Rubbery feeling of lymph nodes suggests lymphomas, while soft nodes in armpits are suggestive of infection and suppuration.

Swollen Lymph Node in Armpit Treatment

It is imperative to consult your physician when you find swollen lymph node in your armpit that does not recede within few days or weeks. The treatment depends on detecting and curing underlying cause.

If your physician detects clinically an abscess or a boil, simple measure is to drain the abscess. In case the lymph node is hard and the cause is bacterial infection, you can apply warm water compresses to make it soft before draining.

To reduce pain and swelling of lymph nodes caused due to bacterial infection in early stage, apply cold compresses. Take a jar of cold water with few ice cubes. Now mix pinch of magnesium sulfate powder in the water. Dip a clean cloth in the jar and apply the wet cold cloth over the affected lymph node and the boil or an abscess. You will find relief from pain and decrease in the size of lymph nodes. If cancer is detected after a biopsy and various other tests, follow your physician’s guidelines.

Avoid using deodorants and anti -perspirants that block the pores of your armpit and facilitate bacterial infection.

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