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Lymphadenitis is the medical term for enlargement in one or more lymph nodes, usually due to infection. Lymph nodes are filled with white blood cells that help your body fight infections. When lymph nodes become infected, it's usually because an infection started somewhere else in your body. Rarely, lymph nodes can enlarge due to cancer.
You have about 600 lymph nodes in your body, but normal lymph nodes may only be felt below your jaw, under your arms, and in your groin area.
A normal lymph node is small and firm. When lymph nodes become infected, they usually increase in size, become tender, and may be felt in other areas of your body during a physical exam.
Infections that spread to lymph nodes are usually caused by bacteria, a virus, or a fungus. It is important to learn how the infection spread into your lymph nodes so that the right treatment can be started.
Lymphadenitis can be one of two types:
Lymphadenitis occurs when one or more lymph nodes are infected by a bacteria, a virus, or a fungus. When lymph nodes become infected, it's usually because an infection started somewhere else in your body.
The main symptom of lymphadenitis is enlarged lymph nodes. A lymph node is considered enlarged if it is about one-half inch wide. Symptoms caused by an infected lymph node or group of nodes may include:
The symptoms of lymphadenitis may look like other medical conditions or problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
If you have lymphadenitis, the most important parts of your diagnosis are usually your history and the physical exam done by your healthcare provider. You may be asked about your symptoms, such as chills and fever, any recent travel, any breaks in your skin, and recent contact with cats or other animals. Then, during the physical exam, your healthcare provider will look for signs of infection near the enlarged lymph nodes.
These tests may be needed to help make the diagnosis:
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
The exact type of treatment depends on what type of infection has spread into your lymph nodes. Once an infection has spread into some lymph nodes, it can spread quickly to others and to other parts of your body, so it's important to find the cause of the infection and start treatment quickly.
Treatment for lymphadenitis may include:
The best way to prevent lymphadenitis is to see your healthcare provider at the first sign of any infection or if you notice a tender swelling that feels like a little lump just beneath your skin. Make sure to cleanse and use antiseptic on any scratches or breaks in your skin and always practice good hygiene.
Take all your medicines exactly as prescribed and keep all your follow-up appointments. Don't use any over-the-counter medicines without first talking to your healthcare provider. Cool compresses and elevating the affected part of your body may help relieve pain and swelling while your medicines are doing their work.
In most cases, lymphadenitis clears up quickly with proper treatment, but it may take more time for lymph node swelling to go away. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know if your lymphadenitis symptoms come back.
If your symptoms get worse or you have new symptoms, call your healthcare provider.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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