Enlarged lymph nodes : causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

Last Updated on December 6, 2022 by Dr. Saqib Mueed

The enhancement of the size of lymph nodes due to some kind of infection or abnormal cell division is called enlarged lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are collectively known as lymph glands. They are tiny oval structures that spread all over the body. Lymph nodes basically contain white blood cell WBCs. These important WBCs are called lymphocytes. 

Many kinds of lymphocytes bring up and mature inside the lymph node. lymph nodes are part of our body’s immune system. These immune systems defend the body against infection.

The Lymph nodes are joined with each other through lymph channels which are known as lymphatics. Lymphatics are the tiny tube-like blood vessels by which lymph fluid, as well as protein and many other compounds, travel from one part of the body to other parts. Enlarged lymph nodes are mostly due to cancer.

 Locations of lymph node

The enlarged lymph nodes are mostly present in the following region of our body

  •  Neck Region
  •  Below the chin
  •  In armpits
  •  In groin
  •  Besides head
  •  Above elbow
  • Abdomen
  • Deep in chest

Lymph nodes protect from infection which is caused by viruses. common cold virus and bacteria etc. Lymph nodes are prepared antibodies that will help in the future by protecting this particular germ infection.

Enlarged lymph nodes also contain swollen glands sometimes known as lymphadenopathy or lymphadenitis.

Some lymph nodes cannot be seen but when they become enlarged they can be seen easily in some parts of our body. You may look at them as enlarged  ‘BUMPS’.You can feel it by moving your hands around the swollen part.

Causes of Enlarged lymph nodes

Lymph nodes become enlarged when they are active during bacterial viral. fungal inflammation or cancer. The major causes of enlarged lymph nodes are due to viral infection. The most general cause is a viral upper respiratory infection known as the common cold.

Viruses which include the enlargement of lymph nodes

  • Adenovirus
  • Herpes
  • HIV
  • Infectious mononucleosis
  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Common cold

Bacteria cause infection of enlarged  lymph nodes

  • Tuberculosis
  • Syphilis
  • Cat scratch disease
  • Chlamydia
  • Streptococcus
  • Sexually transmitted disease
  • Staphylococcus

Parasites may include in the enlargement of lymph node

Enlarged lymph nodes can also be caused by cancer. These cancer cells develop from lymph nodes or blood cells like lymphomas and some kinds of leukemia

Breast cancer may cause the enlargement of lymph nodes under the arm and lung cancer causes the swelling of lymph nodes around the collarbones.

Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus may cause enlarged lymph nodes.

some other causes may include.

  • Sarcoidosis
  • Genetic lipid storage disease
  • Transplant graft rejection

When lymph nodes are active to defend against infection they become enlarged and painful. Commonly the pain is little and the lymph node does not become enlarged too much over 2cm less than 1 inch in size.

Symptoms of enlarged lymph nodes

Symptoms sometimes may depend on the place and causes of swelling of lymph node

  •   Upper respiratory symptoms like runny nose, fever, sore throat
  •   Night sweat
  •   Limb swelling included lymphatic system blockage
  •   The spreading and hardness of lymph nodes indicate the presence of tumors
  •   Tender
  •   Weight loss
  •   Abdominal pain
  •   Toothache
  •   Localized red patches of the skin may appear over the lymph nodes

In a child, when a lymph node becomes enlarged once, It may remain enlarged for a long time. In most cases, some lymph nodes become enlarged at the same time. Generally, lymph nodes will start to decrease in size between two to three weeks but little bumps of lymph nodes less than 1cm in size can be present for months.

Diagnosis of enlarged lymph nodes

The doctor will diagnose the enlarged lymph nodes through the following measures.

The doctor will diagnose the size and place of the enlarged lymph node.

If one or more lymph nodes are included.

If it is associated with redness that occurs on the infection site.

If the node is tender.

Through feeling this lymph node i.e it feels soft, firm, rubbery, or hard.

It may also diagnose this disease through skin rashes, enlarged liver, or spleen.

This disease may be examined through an X-ray, skin test for TB, Blood count, a blood test for infection, If you have lost your weight and joint pain or swelling it can be detected easily.

Treatment enlarged lymph nodes

In most cases, enlarged lymph nodes cannot be treated. Sometimes the infection which is mostly spread due to bacteria i.e., strep throat can be treated with many antibiotics.

Doctors will prescribe many antibiotics to defend against bacterial infection which causes an enlarged lymph nodes.

Steroid prednisone causes a decrease in the number of lymph nodes.

If the presence of cancer or any other infections will happen in this case, the doctor will recommend surgery.

Most people are worried about this enlarged node which causes serious cancer.

Standard treatment of this infection may consist of pain relievers, and medicine such as ibuprofen to lower fever and doctors can prescribe painkillers for pain. 

Home remedies, elevation, and a warm compressor may help in reducing the swelling.

Sometimes doctors may recommend a C-T scan of the affected area.


The following measures should be taken during this disease.

  • Taking good health habits
  • Avoiding sexual behavior
  • Risky drug
  • Protect itself from bacterial, fungal, and viral infection [1]401.full.pdf (bmj.com) [2]https://www.acoi.org/sites/default/files/uploads/omed/Hubbard.pdf [3]https://www.drchrishobbs.com/uploads/8/2/1/2/8212308/neck_lumps.pdf


Reviewed by:

Dr. Shahid Bukhari

MBBS, FCPS (Medicine)

Ex. Registrar DOW Medical College Karachi

Medical Officer Aga Khan University Hospital Karachi

Our reviewers’ details, Click Here


1401.full.pdf (bmj.com)

Leave a Comment