Swollen Lymph Nodes
Symptom Checker: Symptoms & Signs Index
Medical Author: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Gland swelling commonly refers to enlargement of the lymph glands, also known as lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small rounded or bean-shaped masses of lymphatic tissue surrounded by a capsule of connective tissue. Lymph glands (nodes) are located in many places in the lymphatic system throughout the body. Lymph nodes filter the lymphatic fluid and store special cells that can trap cancer cells or bacteria that are traveling through the body in the lymph fluid. The lymph nodes are critical for the body's immune response and are principal sites where many immune reactions are initiated.
Groups of lymph nodes are found in the neck, around the collarbone, in the armpit (axilla), and in the groin. Lymph nodes in the groin region are referred to as inguinal lymph nodes. During a physical examination your doctor may feel (palpate) these areas to look for swollen or enlarged lymph glands.
Swelling of the lymph glands is typically a result of local or widespread inflammation, but sometimes enlarged lymph nodes are due to cancer. Swollen lymph glands are referred to as lymphadenopathy. Inflammation of a lymph node is referred to as lymphadenitis.
Other glands that are sometimes perceptible when swollen are the tonsils, parotid glands, salivary glands, tear (lacrimal) glands, and the thyroid gland.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/23/2006
Health concern on your mind? Visit the Symptom Checker.
Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes
Other Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes
Examples of Medications for Swollen Lymph Nodes
Symptoms & Signs A-Z List
Get the latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!