Lymph node swelling
Lymph node swelling it is a common situation to detect lymph node swelling in a person during physical examinations in health institutions. Diseases caused by infection with various microorganisms are examples of benign problems of lymph node enlargement, however, since rheumatic diseases or life-threatening cancers may cause lymph node swelling, the detection of this swelling should not be neglected.
What is a lymph node?
In the human body, similar to the blood circulation, there is the lymphatic system, which is another circulatory network responsible for the transport of fatty substances and the body’s defense. There are lymph nodes that work as a station and checkpoint on the lymph vessels that provide lymphatic circulation.
Normal lymph nodes (nodes) are encapsulated tissues with a diameter of 1-15 mm. They are often found in groups along lymph vessels and line up to form structures that look like chains.
Lymph nodes have the ability to recognize foreign substances that do not belong to the body. Antigen molecules form the basis of the stimulation of immunity. Antigens and various foreign substances that indicate the presence of microorganisms in the body reach the lymph nodes through the lymph vessels and are perceived by the defense cells. Later, the immune system activates the defense mechanisms to create the necessary response to this stimulus, and this microorganism and foreign substances are eliminated.
Where are the lymph nodes (nodes) located?
There are nearly 600 lymph nodes in the human body. Therefore, they show a wide distribution in the body:
- The back of the head
- Front and back of the ear
- Front and back of the neck
- Under the chin
- • In the upper part of the collarbone
- Under the armpits
- Around the elbows
- In the groin
- Around the knee
At the same time, lymph nodes are located deeper in the middle of the chest and in the abdomen.
Why do lymph nodes (nodes) swell?
In the case of viral diseases such as chickenpox and shingles caused by infectious mononucleosis caused by EBV (Epstein Barr Virus) or viruses in the herpetic virus family, enlargement of lymph nodes may develop. In the AIDS clinic caused by HIV, lymph node enlargements occur throughout the body. Due to throat infections caused by bacteria called streptococci in the respiratory tract, enlargement of lymph nodes in the lower jaw and neck region may occur.
Enlargement of lymph nodes may occur as a result of lymphoma, leukemia, and cancers in other organs of the body spreading to lymph nodes.
Rheumatic diseases, autoimmune diseases that occur as a result of the person’s defense cells attacking their own tissues and organs; Storage diseases, which represent problems related to the preservation of carbohydrate and fatty nutrients in the body, may cause enlargement in the lymph nodes due to exposure to various drugs and toxic substances.
There is a relationship between the localization of the large lymph nodes in certain parts of the body and some diseases. Lymph node enlargement is mostly located in the head & neck region. Growths in the head and neck area are usually caused by a viral respiratory infection. Growths on the collarbone are warning signs for malignant diseases. Growth in the lymph nodes in the anterior armpit is important for breast cancer. One of the most common areas of lymph node enlargement is the area around the groin. Lymph nodes in the groin area due to various infections are 2 cm. and can reach larger sizes.
When swelling occurs in 2 or more lymph nodes located in different body parts, this is called generalized lymph node enlargement. Care should be taken in terms of diffuse lymph node enlargement, as it is associated with more serious conditions than localized growths in a region.
Apart from the location of lymph node enlargements, their size, pain, and tenderness or consistency can guide the underlying cause.
- Considering the size of lymph nodes, in adult individuals, it is usually 1 cm. growths up to the diameter are considered normal. While this border is reduced to 0.5 cm around the elbow, it is 1.5-2 cm in the groin area. lymph nodes with a diameter are considered normal.
- In children, the limit value that is generally considered to be disease-related in terms of lymph nodes is 2 cm. lymph nodes with a diameter.
- A rubbery consistency of the growing lymph node may be a symptom of lymphoma disease. While the growths due to infection have a softer consistency, the hard structure of the enlarged lymph node may indicate underlying cancer.
- Lymph nodes are encapsulated tissues. Their capsules stretch as a result of their growth and pain may occur. The source of pain is often an inflammatory process. Findings such as warmth or redness around the swollen gland are signs that support the underlying cause of infection.
- The adherence of the growing lymph node to the surrounding tissues and restriction of its movement may occur due to the spread of underlying cancer to the lymph node.
What diagnostic methods are used in the growing lymph node?
During the physical examination, the physician evaluates the characteristics of the enlarged lymph node. Whether it is in the whole or a single region of the body, its size, the feeling of redness or warmth around it, its sensitivity, consistency, and mobility are evaluated.
Laboratory tests of the microorganism that are thought to be the cause of lymph node enlargement, which are thought to be caused by a complete blood count, sedimentation (ESR), liver and kidney functions, and a viral or bacterial factor, may be requested to clarify the underlying disease.
To examine the enlarged lymph nodes detected after the physical examination and laboratory tests performed by the physician, ultrasonography may be the first of all imaging methods. Chest radiography can be performed in suspicious cases of chest diseases. Computed tomography and positron emission tomography (PET / CT) are other imaging methods that can be used to determine the distribution of enlarged lymph nodes in the body.
In the presence of abnormal lymph node findings and signs supporting malignant disease, a biopsy can be performed to clarify the underlying disease. A biopsy procedure performed on lymph nodes is performed excisional. The term excisional means complete removal of the suspected lymph node while preserving its integrity, and the largest lymph node is usually selected for this procedure. Microscopically, pathological and histological examination is performed on the removed lymph node.
How are enlarged lymph nodes treated?
The underlying disease determines the course of the disease and the choice of treatment in lymph node enlargement. Regional growths caused by viral or bacterial infections may regress after supportive therapy or drug use. In general, regional growths have a better course than growths throughout the body. If the swollen lymph nodes are sensitive and painful, applying a hot compress to that area can provide relief from the pain. Rest and painkillers used within the knowledge of the doctor are other options that can be used to control symptoms.
Lymph nodes are swollen due to viral diseases usually regress to normal size after the disease is over. Antibiotics are used to treat growths caused by bacterial causes.
If it is determined that lymph node enlargement is caused by the drugs used, assistance should be sought from the relevant department to create an alternative to the current treatment, if possible.
While treatment for the underlying cause is planned for rheumatic diseases caused by problems in the immune system, surgical interventions, chemotherapy or radiotherapy applications can be applied to treat the disease in lymph nodes enlarged due to cancer.
Due to the wide range of causes of lymph node enlargement detected in the body, ranging from simple infections to life-threatening cancers, it is recommended to apply to health institutions as soon as possible. If there is no underlying cause, lymph node enlargement continues or if it is the same size for more than 1 month, accompanying fever, night sweats and weight loss are alarm symptoms that require referral to healthcare institutions.