Lymph Glands

What are Lymph Glands?


Lymph glands or Lymph Nodes are an important part of the human immune system. Most people have already probably heard about these nodes. Not everyone however knows enough about these nodes, making them panic too much when the nodes start to swell or become painful. Find out about some of the basic facts you should know about lymph glands.


What They Are Lymph Glands / Nodes


Some people refer to these nodes as glands. This is not however, an entirely correct term since the nodes do not function in much the same way as other glands that secrete substances like hormones. The nodes are commonly described as shaped like round or oval beans and are found throughout the body. Some parts of the body have groups of these nodes each with nodes that can be felt by the fingers by pressing over the surface of the skin and flesh.


The lymph glands are stationary units that allow the lymph fluid to pass through them. They filter and clean the lymph fluid by destroying any bacteria or harmful substances that may be in it. Since bacteria and foreign elements can be found in any part of the body, there are also specific lymph node areas that take care of lymph filtering for each body part. The lymph circulating in the throat, mouth and neck region for example pass through the nodes in the neck and jaw area. Lymph circulating in the feet and leg region pass through the nodes in the groin. A third common lymph draining area is the nodes in the armpit section.


Sometimes, the lymph may carry bacteria and viruses that are the cause of an infection. The lymph glands may begin to swell fast because of the production of immune cells needed to fight the infection. The corresponding swelling may be accompanied by some pain. Gradual and pain free swelling as well as hardness in the swollen portion may be an indication of a more serious medical condition such as a tumor or cancer.


Seeing Your Doctor


There is no need to panic immediately even when a swollen portion is pain free. Forming assumptions about swollen lymph nodes may only cause you unnecessary stress and anxiety. The best course of action would be to ask your doctor to diagnose your condition and to check your lymph glands.


Your doctor will ask you a few questions about your nodes. He would want to know when swelling began, what your other symptoms are, if there are changes in swelling size and if the swelling was sudden or gradual. Depending on the result of the physical exam and interview, you may have to undergo some tests such as a blood exam and a CT scan. If there is any real cause for concern, your doctor may recommend a biopsy that may be accomplished through fine needle aspiration. He may also recommend the surgical removal of a portion of the node for a closer study of the cells.


If the real cause of your swollen and painful nodes is colds or flu, you need not worry. Your lymph glands will go back to their normal size a few days after you get well.

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