Painful Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes are a natural part of our immune systems. When swollen and painful lymph nodes appear however, we often don’t know if there is an immediate need to seek serious medical attention. Here’s what you should know about painful lymph nodes.


Lymph Nodes


Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system. They can be found in many parts of the body. There are some clusters of them that can be felt through the skin as small, round lumps that are no more than a centimeter or so. The most evident clusters are those on your armpit, groin and neck. These lymph nodes have the special function of filtering fluid known as the lymph which may carry with it some foreign bodies like bacteria and different forms of waste. Once the foreign substances have been isolated, they can be destroyed by white blood cells. Your lymph nodes will not be painful while performing their normal functions.


Painful Lymph Nodes


Sometimes though, your lymph nodes may become a bit more swollen. These painful lymph nodes are often the result of an infection that your body is trying to fight. The infection causing agent can be a bacterium or virus. Examples of conditions that may cause pain and swelling include colds, sore throat, ear infection, gum infection, mouth sores, chicken pox and shingles. Other more serious conditions include HIV, rubella, mumps and tuberculosis. Some medicines and vaccines may also cause lymph node swelling and pain.


If the infection, like the common cold, is not too serious, the swollen nodes will eventually return to normal on its own. The pain will also dissipate. When the conditions are more serious, the lymph nodes will return to normal when the underlying condition is treated. Lymph nodes however do not immediately return to normal even when one no longer has the symptoms of any condition. It may take a few more days after a condition is treated for the nodes to get back to normal.


When to see your doctor about painful lymph nodes


It is always advisable to see your doctor for conditions that you are unfamiliar with. If you have painful lymph nodes that are obviously causing you extreme discomfort or pain, you should see your doctor. On the other hand, you may have already had a similar node swelling experience that has been caused by nothing more than a non life threatening infection that may not need your doctor’s attention.


If you want to know when you should see your doctor for painful lymph nodes, you should be able to recognize critical lymph node signs and symptoms. If the swollen nodes are more than an inch big, hard and reddish, your infection may be taking a bad turn. In other words, your lymphatic system may not be able to handle the problem on its own anymore. You would have to see your doctor when this happens. Be especially concerned if your painful lymph nodes are accompanied by fever, sweating, fatigue and loss of weight.


In some cases, swollen lymph nodes that aren’t painful may be more alarming. They may be signs of a malignant tumor or the spread of cancer cells.

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