Swollen lymph nodes are very common and, if you happen to experience this phenomenon, the first thing you should do is calm down. 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 that your lymph nodes are swollen. 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?
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 cause you to get sick.
The lymph nodes are bean-shaped and distributed throughout the neck, collarbone, armpits, internal organs and groin. They usually measure about one centimeter and a half in size and, if they are not swollen, we usually don’t even realize that they’re there.
2. Why do the lymph nodes get swollen?
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 calm down and concentrate on the fact that this is a very common phenomenon; although there is no reason to become alarmed, you should still contact your doctor.
Now, we’re going to take a look at some of the reasons why your lymph nodes may become swollen:
- 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 our 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, because 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.
3. Symptoms of a swollen lymph node
Generally, these lumps are quite easy to spot, but you should be familiar with all of the symptoms so that you can stay calm and, in case one appears on your body, 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, so you should get in touch with your doctor immediately. Specifically, it could be a symptom of Hodgkin’s disease, which, if treated properly, can usually be cured.
- A swollen lymph node sometimes comes along with a bit of fever. You may also experience night sweats.
- Sometimes, swollen lymph nodes can be painful. We’d like to point out that classic sayings such as, “if it doesn’t hurt, it’s something bad” and “if it hurts, it’s just an infection” are completely untrue. There is no conclusive evidence to prove these assertions, so the best thing you can do is get a proper diagnosis.
4. Can you prevent swollen lymph nodes?
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 level low: When you body is flooded with hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, these toxins interrupt the proper functioning of your immune system, which also has a negative impact on your overall health. Maintaining low stress levels plays a serious role in helping your body fight off disease, so always pay attention to how you are managing your emotions. Your health deserves it!