Lymphadenopathy is a swelling of the lymph nodes. This symptom is considered an indication of various diseases.
What is lymphadenopathy?
Among other things, non-specific lymph node diseases are summarized under the term lymphadenopathy. This is when the lymph nodes swell. Normally, the lymph nodes, which can be found almost everywhere in the human body, do not exceed one centimeter in size, which means that they can hardly be felt. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Lymphadenopathy.
If this is the case, however, we are talking about lymphadenopathy or lymph node swelling. In most people, swelling is caused by infections. For example, swollen lymph nodes usually appear in the context of flu infections or fever and are considered harmless.
Sometimes, however, they also indicate serious illnesses that require medical clarification. These include measles, rubella, inflamed tonsils, malaria, syphilis, toxoplasmosis or AIDS. In addition, lymphadenopathy can occur in the context of benign or malignant tumors. The swelling of the lymph nodes appears either only in certain areas of the body or over the entire body, such as in the case of lymph gland cancer.
The causes of lymphadenopathy are manifold. In most cases, relatively harmless diseases such as a viral infection are behind it, which can be a cold. But there are also specific viral infections that are responsible for the symptom.
These include glandular fever, rubella, measles, mumps, shingles, herpes, cytomegalovirus disease, Lassa fever or an HIV infection. Likewise, certain bacterial infections can cause swelling of the lymph nodes, such as salmonellosis, tuberculosis, or syphilis.
Other conceivable causes are diseases such as malaria, fungal infections, toxoplasmosis, rheumatic diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (butterfly rash) or rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic diseases such as Niemann-Pick or Gaucher disease, congenital immune deficiency, sickle cell anemia or thalassemia.
The most serious causes of lymphadenopathy include benign tumors and malignant cancers. Kawasaki syndrome and sarcoidosis are classified as benign lymphomas. Malignant diseases are leukemia, lymph gland cancer such as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma or Hodgkin’s disease, and breast cancer, in which the lymph nodes in the armpit region swell. In some patients, lymphadenopathy also develops as a result of taking certain drugs.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Lymphadenopathy becomes noticeable through enlargement of the lymph nodes, some of which can be felt. In some cases, the affected lymph nodes also react with pressure pain. In most people, however, non-tender lymph nodes can be found in the angle of the jaw. This area is under the earlobe at the base of the lower jaw.
The same applies to the groin bend. If the skin can be moved easily and there is no pain or enlargement, there is no need to worry. However, if the lymph nodes cannot be moved against the skin and the underlying surface, or if they are interwoven to form lymph node packages, this is considered an indication of a malignant disease.
If the lymphadenopathy is triggered by a general disease, the patient also suffers from its symptoms. These may be fever, sore throat, runny nose, skin rashes, night sweats or weight loss.
Diagnosis & course of disease
If unclear swelling of the lymph nodes does not go away after 14 days or if it continues to increase in size, a doctor should be consulted. The same applies to swollen, non-movable or painful lymph nodes. In addition to the family doctor, an ear, nose and throat doctor or an internist can also be consulted.
The doctor first looks at the medical history of the patient. He then carries out a physical examination in which he feels and taps the affected body regions. He prefers to deal with the swollen lymph nodes and checks their consistency, sensitivity to pain and mobility.
He also determines whether lymphadenopathy is also present in other parts of the body. General signs of infection or inflammation are also important. A blood test, a sonography (ultrasound test) of the lymph nodes and the removal of a tissue sample ( biopsy ) are possible further examination methods.
Imaging diagnostic methods such as an X-ray examination, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) also play a role . The course of a lymphadenopathy depends on the triggering cause.
If the underlying disease is harmless like a common cold, the lymphadenopathy disappears when the infection subsides. However, if the cause is serious, such as tumor formation, the swollen lymph nodes will remain.
In most cases, patients suffer from pressure pain in the lymph nodes due to lymphadenopathy. This pain can be very uncomfortable and thus significantly reduce the quality of life of those affected. Especially in the area of the jaw and mouth, lymphadenopathy can lead to unpleasant symptoms and significantly restrict the affected person’s everyday life.
The skin may also be affected, so that it also hurts when it is pulled or moved. Lymphadenopathy can be a serious condition that definitely needs to be evaluated and treated by a doctor. The patients can suffer from a cold or a sore throat and often show rashes on the skin. Weight loss or night sweats can also occur.
The treatment of lymphadenopathy is usually based on the causes of this complaint and aims to reduce the symptoms. In most cases, antibiotics are used. Complications usually do not occur, so that the symptoms can be combated well. The course of the disease is usually positive and the life expectancy of the person affected is not reduced by the lymphadenopathy.
When should you go to the doctor?
Swelling of the lymph nodes does not necessarily have to be examined. Medical advice is required if the swelling persists for more than 14 days or even increases in size. Painful or non-displaceable lymph nodes should also be presented to a doctor. Warning signs such as fever, skin rashes or weight loss indicate that the symptoms have a serious underlying cause. A doctor must be consulted if symptoms worsen or a serious underlying condition is suspected as the cause.
For example, people suffering from a bacterial, viral or rheumatic disease should consult the doctor if the lymph nodes swell. Lymphadenopathy also requires medical evaluation if it recurs. Those affected should consult their family doctor or an internist. The actual therapy is carried out by a lymphologist, often in conjunction with different specialists for the respective symptoms. Treatment usually involves several follow-up visits to ensure the lymphatic system is healthy and there are no other problems.
Treatment & Therapy
How lymphadenopathy is treated depends on the particular trigger. Local infections or inflammations such as a cold or sore throat do not require any special therapeutic measures because the lymph nodes will swell after the illness has ended.
Bacterial infections may require antibiotics. If, on the other hand, there is a viral infection such as glandular fever or measles, the focus is on treating the symptoms. The doctor treats severe viral diseases such as AIDS (HIV) with antivirals. These have the property of preventing the viruses from multiplying.
If the patient suffers from lymph gland cancer, he receives a combination treatment of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The patient himself has only a few possibilities to do something against a lymphadenopathy. He usually has to wait until the lymph node swelling subsides.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis of lymphadenopathy depends on the causative disease. The swelling of the lymph nodes is not an independent health problem. Rather, it is a symptom of an underlying condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated. In most cases, there is an infection that can be easily treated with today’s medical options. In some of them, a reduction in symptoms can be observed after some time even without medication. This is linked to the general state of health of the person concerned and the use of self-help measures.
In principle, however, cooperation with a doctor should take place for a favorable prognosis. Lymphadenopathy alone is not sufficient to know which treatment steps are necessary. If there is a congenital disorder, lifelong therapy is often indicated. A chronic disease can also be a possible cause of the lymph node swelling. A steady increase in health irregularities is to be expected here. If the person concerned suffers from cancer, the course of the disease can be unfavorable and lead to premature death.
A comprehensive medical examination must be carried out before the prognosis is made so that an individual treatment plan can be drawn up. Even patients who have achieved freedom from symptoms can experience a regression of symptoms over the course of their lives.
Preventing lymphadenopathy is difficult. Simple preventive measures such as taking vitamins, contrast showers, hardening or lots of fresh air are possible against triggering inflammations or infections such as a flu infection. In some cases, proven home remedies are also helpful. Regular cancer check-ups are recommended for the early detection of tumor diseases.
In most cases, lymphadenopathy is associated with severe symptoms and complications that can significantly reduce the quality of life of those affected. Therefore, the patient should see a doctor as soon as the first symptoms and signs of the disease appear, so that there are no further complications and no further worsening of the symptoms.
Since the disease weakens the organism in many ways, those affected should avoid physical exertion as far as possible and take it easy. Depending on the condition, gentle exercise such as yoga can help to keep moving and avert damage caused by too long a relieving posture and ensure elasticity.
If the symptoms are not treated, the disease can also irreversibly damage the internal organs. In many cases, however, lymphadenopathy can be treated well if diagnosed early. The life expectancy of the person affected is then usually not reduced by the disease.
You can do that yourself
Overall, the options for self-help in the case of lymphadenopathy are limited. However, whether prevention is possible, which can be done on your own, depends on the cause of the lymph node swelling. Unfortunately, there are no options for self-help during the illness. If it is an infection, the lymphadenopathy usually heals on its own. However, if the swelling persists, a doctor should be consulted urgently to rule out a potentially serious illness.
For some diseases that can lead to lymphadenopathy, everyone can prevent lymphadenopathy themselves. This is especially true for infectious diseases, which can be prevented by a strong immune system. This can be achieved through a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet and exercise in the fresh air. In addition, alcohol, smoking and the abuse of drugs and medication should be avoided. Furthermore, care must be taken to avoid all possibilities of infection.
However, lymphadenopathy can also be triggered by other causes in addition to infections. Prevention or self-help is not always possible. This applies, among other things, to underlying congenital or hereditary diseases. However, if environmental pollution such as dust or asbestos fibers are possible causes of lymphadenopathy, everything should be done to rule out the triggering factors. This can be guaranteed, among other things, by strict compliance with appropriate occupational safety measures.