What Should You Do About Swollen Lymph Nodes?

· August 12, 2015
Swollen lymph nodes are very common and not something to panic about. 80% of the time, this swelling is the result of a simple infection. Sometimes, even if your body is just feeling a bit weak, it can cause your tissue fluid (lymph) to build up and cause this reaction.

Swollen lymph nodes are very common and not something to panic about. 80% of the time, this swelling is the result of a simple infection. Sometimes, even if your body is just feeling a bit weak, it can cause your tissue fluid (lymph) to build up and cause this reaction.

Staying calm and making an appointment to see your doctor are the two most important things you can do if you find you have swollen lymph nodes. And in this article, we’re going to explain some of the causes and symptoms of swollen lymph nodes, always reminding you that this is a very common problem.

1. What function do the lymph nodes perform?

Doctor examining swollen lymph nodes

Think of your lymphatic system as a complex network that runs through your entire body, just like your blood vessels. It is made up of lymphocytes and its purpose is to defend your body and take care of your immune system. This means getting rid of toxins, pathogenic agents, germs or any other foreign substance that may make you ill.

The lymph nodes are bean-shaped and are in the neck, collarbone, armpits, internal organs and groin. They usually measure about half an inch in size. Often, we don’t even realize that they’re there.

2. Why do the lymph nodes get swollen?

Doctor asking woman questions

You may realize that, after suffering from a nasty flu, you have a swollen lymph node on the side of your neck. This is the most common cause of swelling in the lymph nodes. Or, when you’re in the shower, you may find a small lump under your armpit.

The first thing you should do in either of these instances is keep calm and realize that this is a very common phenomenon. Although there is no immediate reason for concern, you should still contact your doctor.

Reasons for swelling

Now, we’re going to take a look at some of the reasons why you may get swollen lymph nodes:

  • Because of a cold or the flu, which weaken your immune system and lower your body’s natural defenses.
  • You may find this hard to believe, but a tooth infection can also cause any of the lymph nodes in your neck to swell. So, it’s important to take care of your oral hygiene.
  • Also watch out for ear infections. If you have a very serious ear infection, it could cause your lymph nodes to swell.
  • Mouth ulcers are another type of infection that you should keep in mind.
  • Diseases such as tuberculosis or tonsillitis are other factors that could cause a swollen lymph node to appear.
  • Immune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis can also cause this problem to occur.
  • Be careful when it comes to the side effects of certain medications. These can also cause swollen lymph nodes to appear on your body.
  • Leukemia is another cause that you should keep in mind.
  • A swollen lymph node could also be the result of Hodgkin’s disease or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. These are very common types of cancer, and it’s important to note that the recovery rate for these diseases is quite high.

See also: 7 Natural Ways to Boost Your Immune System and Prevent Colds and the Flu

3. Symptoms of a swollen lymph node

Woman's face and armpit

Generally, these lumps are quite easy to spot. However, you should be familiar with all of the symptoms so that you don’t get overly worried about it. In the case that one appears, get in touch with your doctor.

  • If you see a lump on your neck, collarbone, armpit or groin, this could be a swollen lymph node. We’d like to point out that if you find this lump on your collarbone, it could be something more serious. In this case you should get in touch with your doctor immediately. It could be a symptom of Hodgkin’s disease, which, with proper treatment, can usually be cured.
  • A swollen lymph node is usually accompanied by fever. You may also experience sweating at night.
  • Sometimes, swollen lymph nodes can be painful.

4. Can you prevent swollen lymph nodes?

Ginger lemon and mint tea

As we tend to say on this site, there is no surefire way to protect yourself against certain illnesses. In the case of the lymphatic system, the most important thing you can do is keep your immune system in good shape. Take a look at these tips to see how you can do that:

  • Increase your vitamin C consumption: You can do this either by drinking fresh juice with fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit, or delicious salads with fruits such as strawberries, kiwi and papaya. Yummy!
  • Say YES to vitamin E: You should pay special attention to green leafy vegetables such as spinach, and whole grain foods such as oatmeal, wheat, barley and brewer’s yeast. Also, try to eat more nuts.
  • Increase your body’s levels of iron, selenium and zinc: Lean meats, legumes, squash, salmon, olive oil…All of these foods are key to keeping your body full of the minerals it needs to stay strong.
  • Try to keep your stress levels low: When your body fills up with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, these toxins interrupt the proper functioning of your immune system. This has a negative effect on your overall health. Maintaining low stress levels plays an important role in helping your body fight off disease. For that reason, always pay attention to how you are managing your emotions. Your health deserves it!