Lymph nodes are tiny nodules present all over the body. They are found in clusters. You can palpate lymph nodes when they are swollen, but in normal circumstances they are hardly palpable. Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system in the body. Their main function is to trap the bacteria and foreign organisms from the lymph fluid that runs through the lymphatic system.Lymph nodes get swollen in the process. Therefore, Physicians always palpate the lymph nodes when they suspect infection. Lymph nodes also get enlarged when they trap the cells of a tumor. Swollen lymph nodes are easily palpable in the neck, ear, underarms and in groin region.
Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes
- An infection on the Pinna of the ear due to ear piercing can be a cause of swollen lymph node in front of the ear.
- Sometimes, the salivary glands present in front of the ear get swollen. This happens when the duct or the tube that carries the saliva from the glands get blocked. Sometimes this may result in sudden swelling in front of the left ear when you are eating.
- Cold and sinus infection can also cause swollen lymph node in front of the ear.
- Infection in the forehead, such as a boil or an infection in the upper eye lid, as in the case of a Stye can cause swollen lymph node in front of the ear. This is because the lymph from the forehead and upper eye lid drain in lymph nodes present in front of the ear.
- Perinaud oculoglandular syndrome affects usually one eye.
Symptoms include swollen lymph node in front of the ear on the side of the eye involved. Pink eyes, fever, are other symptoms. The cause for this syndrome is cat scratch disease or tularemia.
Swollen Lymph Node in Front of Neck
There are different groups of lymph nodes present in the front of the neck, which drain from different organs of the neck.
- Submandibular: Along the jaw line on either side.
- Tonsillar: Drainage from the tonsils and pharynx (food pipe).
- Sub Mental : Drainage from teeth and oral cavity.
- Anterior Cervical: Nodes that lie on both sides of neck from the angle of the jaw to the upper part of the clavicle. Drainage from internal structures of throat, pharynx, thyroid gland and tonsils.
- Supra Clavicular: Drainage from a portion of the lungs and abdomen.
Usually, swollen lymph nodes in the front of the neck due to an acute infection are very painful. They are firm, tender, swollen and warm to feel. The inflammation causes the skin above it to turn red.
Malignant lymph nodes are firm, matted, not painful, fixed (stuck to the underlying tissue and they do not move on palpation).
The location of enlarged lymph node helps to determine the site of malignancy. Diffused swelling on both sides of neck can be due to lymphomas. If present only on one side, for example on the left side in the anterior cervical region, suggests oral malignancy.
Other causes of swollen lymph node in front of the neck are tonsillitis, tuberculosis, dental abscess, gum disease, impacted tooth, cold, flu and infection of the throat and pharynx, mouth sores, Hodgkin’s disease and non Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Treatment for Swollen Lymph Node in Front of the Ear
- Treating the underlying cause will gradually reduce the lymph nodes in the neck. Pain in the lymph nodes can be relieved by applying warmth. Take a towel and dip it in warm water. Now place it over the neck area where the lymph node is swollen.
- When parotid gland in front of the ear is swollen and painful, apply warmth over the swollen area. Eat something very sour so as to produce lot of saliva. Suck on a lemon or a candy. The flow of saliva will encourage the removal of blockage from the salivary duct.
- If there is infection in and around the ear or on the forehead that has given rise to swollen lymph node in front of the ear, treating with antibiotics will be the first choice of your physician. Meanwhile, at home you can apply a warm cloth to relieve the pain and drain the boil out.
- Once sinusitis and cold infection is treated, the swollen lymph nodes in front of the ear will return to its normal size after some time.
- In case of cancer, treatment is focused on the primary site of cancer. Radiation, chemotherapy and surgery are the options that may be considered by the physician.
- Eating a healthy and nutritious diet is always useful in enhancing your immune system to fight infections or a tumor.
- It may take some time for swollen lymph node to return to its normal size even after the infection has healed.