Enlarged Cervical Lymph Nodes: Causes, Diagnosis And Treatment

The lymphatic system consists of a complex of lymph nodes, organs, and vessels / channels located in your body. The greatest numbers of the lymph nodes are situated in the head and neck area. Furthermore, lymph nodes that are known to swell frequently are predominantly in this region.

Enlarged lymph nodes are an indication that something is incorrect in the body.

When the cervical lymph nodes enlarge, you will notice:

  • The nodes are tender, swollen and painful.
  • They may enlarge to the size of a pea or kidney bean, or sometimes bigger.
  • You may have a sore throat, a runny nose, or fever.
  • General enlargement of the lymph nodes in the body, indicating HIV or mononucleosis, or an immune disorder.
  • Fixed, hard, quickly growing lymph nodes, indicative of a likely tumor mass.

Causes Of Enlarged Cervical Lymph Nodes

Common infectious causes

  • Measles
  • Strep throat
  • Ear infections
  • A tooth abscess
  • Mononucleosis
  • Skin infections
  • HIV infection

Rare infectious causes

  • Sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Cat scratch fever

Immune system disorders

  • Lupus — a chronic inflammatory condition which afflicts the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, blood cells, and heart Cancers.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis — a chronic inflammatory disorder which affects the tissue lining the joints.
  • Lymphoma — cancer originating in the lymphatic system.
  • Leukemia — cancer of the blood forming tissue.
  • Other cancers that may metastasized to the cervical lymph nodes

Diagnosis & Treatment For Enlarged Cervical Lymph Nodes

Primarily, it is vital to have a couple of tests and investigations done, in order to ascertain the cause of the condition. Once diagnosed the timely treatment is very vital.

  • Your health care provider needs to know when and how the cervical lymph nodes enlarged and whether you have any other manifestations.
  • The physician will also want to examine the lymph nodes near the surface of your skin for size, tenderness, warmth and texture. The exact site of the enlarged lymph nodes along with the other clinical features will help establish the underlying cause.
  • Certain blood tests need to be carried out to ratify or rule out the underlying cause. Your health care provider will order a complete blood count that will help him assess the overall health status and also identify a range of disease condition, including infections and leukemia.
  • X-rays and CT scans help define potential sources of infection and / or locate tumor masses.
  • Lymph node biopsy is advised in some cases. If your physician fails to ascertain the right diagnosis, it will be helpful to extract a sample from the enlarged lymph node or even excise an entire lymph node for microscopic examination. Enlargement due to viral infection may return to normal after the infection resolves. Bacterial infections need to be managed with anti-biotic. In case of HIV infection, treatment will be started for that condition.
  • After running the battery of tests and investigations, and once our doctor has been able to conclude the precise cause, the treatment regimen needs to be started immediately.
  • In case the cervical nodes are enlarged and swollen due to lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, treatment is directed at managing the respective condition.

Swollen and enlarged cervical lymph nodes because of tumor mass require treatment for the cancer. Depending up on the type of cancer, effective management may involve surgical intervention, chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

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