Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system. Located in different areas of the body, these bean-shaped, tiny organs are the most important components of our immune system.
Lymphatic glands are made up of lymphatic tissues enclosed by a capsule of connective tissues. They can be found on either side of the neck, inside the chest, in the armpits, abdomen, pelvis and in the groin, the main locations being the neck, under the arms, and in the groin. Dr Shahjahan P A, General Practitioner, Aster Medical Center says, “The lymphatic system is one of the body’s barriers to defend us against infections. This system is responsible for moving lymph node fluid, waste substance, and nutrients throughout our body bloodstream and tissues.” The main function of the lymph nodes is filtering the lymphatic fluid, thus trapping viruses, bacteria and other foreign materials that could be found in lymph fluids.
Swollen lymph node is an indication of an infection in the body. The swelling can be rapid or gradual. Rapid swelling happens in the case of viral or bacterial infections accompanied by pain. Diseases such as cancer lead to painless gradual growth in the lymph nodes.
“It may be combination of symptoms of respiratory tract infection and tenderness of the nodes around the ears, under the chin or upper part of the neck. There are instances where a swollen lymph node manifests as a skin infection or redness and a swollen node can be felt on the chest area,” said Dr Shahjahan.
The conditions to look for are:
Weight loss, night sweats, fatigue, prolonged fever, nodes lasting for more than two weeks, nodes which are hard, fixed to the skin and growing rapidly, nodes close to the collarbone or in the lower part of the neck, red or inflamed skin overlying a node.
A swollen lymph node usually does not call for hospital treatment. However, in case of severe infection and pain, the nodes need to be drained. If a person experiences breathing difficulty, as a result of swollen lymph node, immediate medical advice is mandatory. Inflammations due to malignancy require surgery, radiation or chemotherapy.