Swollen Lymph Nodes (Causes, Locations, Symptoms, Treatments)

  • Medical Author:
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Author: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Common locations of swollen lymph nodes

There are many adult lymph nodes in varying parts of the body that may become swollen for different reasons. Many people can usually see swollen lymph nodes

  • on the neck, behind the ear,
  • under the jaw,
  • above the collar bone,
  • under the arms, and
  • around the groin.

Swollen lymph nodes on the side of the neck or under jaw: Swollen lymph nodes on the side of the neck or under jaw are the most common. They may represent an infection around that area, such as a tooth infection or abscess, throat infection, viral illness, or upper respiratory infection. Most of the causes of swollen lymph nodes in this area are benign (noncancerious); however, sometimes, swelling of these lymph nodes may also suggest a cancer in the head and neck area.

Swollen lymph nodes behind the ear: Swollen lymph nodes behind the ear may correspond to an infection around the scalp or possibly an eye (conjunctival) infection. The most common cause of swollen scalp lymph nodes are skin conditions affecting the scalp, such as dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis); or an abscess, or soft tissue infection.

The lymph nodes in the underarm (armpit, axilla): The lymph nodes in the underarm are anatomically important in breast cancer. They are often checked physically in patients undergoing investigation for breast cancer. They also play an important role in staging (determining the extent) and prognosticating (predicting the outcome) of breast cancer during removal of the cancer tissue from the breast. Many cancers as well as lymphoma and leukemia can cause enlargement of these lymph nodes. These lymph nodes can also become reactive and enlarge due to a trauma to or an infection of the arm on the same side.

Enlarged lymph nodes above the collar bone: Enlarged lymph nodes above the collar bone (supraclavicular lymphadenopathy) are always considered to be abnormal. These generally suggest a cancer of or an infection in the region close by. Examples of these may include lung infection, lung cancer, lymphoma in the chest cavity, or breast cancer. Occasionally more distant cancers may seed these lymph nodes, such as genital cancers or colon cancer. Some inflammatory causes of the swollen lymph nodes above the collar bone (clavicle) can include tuberculosis or sarcoidosis.

Swollen lymph nodes in the groin: Swollen lymph nodes in the groin may be normal in young people as mentioned earlier. However, they could also result from some sexually transmitted diseases, local infections, infections of the lower extremity (including the foot and toes), or genital cancers.

Reviewed on 7/3/2017
References
REFERENCE:

Vikramjit, SK. "Lymphadenopathy." Medscape. Updated: Feb 14, 2017.
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