Inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck: symptoms and treatment

Inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck - symptoms, treatment of pains of the cervical lymph nodes

Many people sometimes find unnatural bulges around their necks, usually extremely painful. They can appear in both adults and children. What does this mean, how is it dangerous and how to treat such a disease? This syndrome is associated with inflammation of the lymph nodes located on the neck. The reasons for the situation can be varied.

What are lymph nodes for?

To find out why the lymph nodes in the neck hurt, first of all, let’s look into what lymph and lymph nodes are and what function they perform in the body.

Lymph is a special fluid that resembles blood, with the exception that it lacks red blood cells. The main cell type found in the lymph is lymphocytes. This type of cell is responsible for the body’s immune response.

Lymph nodes are a collection of lymphatic vessels. Nodes perform a dual function – on the one hand, they are a barrier to the penetration of various infectious agents into the body, and also prevent the reproduction of the pathological cells of the organism itself. On the other hand, lymph nodes are the site of the development of new lymphocytes. Also in the lymph nodes can be produced antibodies and phagocytes. In addition, these organs are responsible for the outflow of intercellular fluid.

Lymph node location

There are a lot of lymph nodes in the human body, but they are most densely located on the neck, in the groin and in the armpit. Lymph nodes have a different size. The largest of them have a diameter of about 1 cm. There are several groups of nodes on the neck:

  • at the front of the neck,
  • at the back of the neck,
  • under the chin,
  • under the jaw,
  • on the back of your head,
  • around the ears.

The largest and close to the surface of the skin can be felt with your fingers. They are round to the touch and can roll slightly. However, in a normal state, the lymph nodes do not cause pain when touched.


The inflammation of the lymph nodes is called lymphadenitis. With cervical lymphadenitis, the nodes increase in size and become painful. To the touch, they can become hard. The size of the inflamed nodes may vary from a diameter of a pea to 5 or more centimeters.

Sometimes, however, the soreness of the cervical lymph nodes is absent. With severe inflammation, the skin around the lymph nodes may redden and inflame. The disease can affect both the lymph nodes on one side of the neck, and symmetrical nodes on both sides. Sometimes several groups of nodes can be involved in the process.

Also, soreness of the cervical lymph node can sometimes be felt not only when pressing on it, but also when swallowing, turning the head in different directions.

There are several risk groups whose members are more likely to get sick:

  • people with weakened immune systems;
  • suffering from chronic alcoholism;
  • people who have a tendency to allergic reactions;
  • patients with thyroid disease.

It is customary to isolate several types of lymphadenitis:

  • sharp,
  • catarrhal
  • chronic.


With inflammation of the cervical lymph nodes, the causes can be varied. In most cases, lymphadenitis is not an independent disease, but only a symptom indicating some problems in the body. These can be inflammations, infections, or tumors. An experienced doctor can determine the location of the disease and its type by the location of the affected node, its shape, size and degree of pain.

Inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck may be due to an increased concentration of pathogens in them, and an increase in their size – with an increase in lymphocyte production.

Very often, inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck is caused by diseases of the upper respiratory tract – rhinitis, sinusitis, sinusitis, tonsillitis, influenza, and middle ear inflammation – otitis. Also, lymphadenitis can cause infections of the oral cavity – periodontitis, gingivitis, caries, stomatitis, inflammation of the gums and tongue.

Infectious processes on the skin – dermatitis, rashes, furunculosis, wounds and suppurations can also cause an increase and inflammation of the nodes. These processes may be due to exposure to the herpes virus, bacteria or fungi.

If the lymph node is severely sore, then this may be a symptom preceding the active phase of the disease. Among the microorganisms that can cause inflammation of the nodes are the causative agents of syphilis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, streptococci and staphylococcus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, pathogenic fungi.

Infection with bacilli tuberculosis , brucellosis and syphilis most often leads to chronic lymphadenitis .

Also, an increase and inflammation of the nodes can be caused by autoimmune diseases (rheumatism, gout, sarcoidosis, Sjogren syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus), chronic alcoholism.

There are cases when lymphadenitis is just evidence of weakened immunity (as a result of stress, lack of vitamins and trace elements in the body). A reverse situation can also occur – when the nodes become inflamed due to an allergic reaction, that is, an enhanced immune response to any irritant. In such cases, however, an increase in the lymph nodes may be accompanied by other symptoms characteristic of allergic reactions – a rash, urticaria, edema, etc.

AIDS is a serious viral disease affecting cells of the human immune system. Inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck, as well as lymph nodes located in other parts of the body, may indicate the presence of HIV in the body.

Infectious mononucleosis can also lead to lymphadenitis. This is a disease in which abnormal cells appear in the body, concentrating in certain organs, including lymph nodes. Mononucleosis is characterized by a very strong increase in lymph nodes, the size of which can reach 5 cm.

Tumors located in the upper body can also contribute to an enlarged lymph node in the neck. In some cases, we can talk about tumors of the tissues of the lymph nodes – lymphomas.

Thus, the reasons capable of causing enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, there is a huge variety, and in a short article it is impossible to list them all. In total, there are more than a hundred diseases that can lead to a similar phenomenon. Therefore, it is usually very difficult to conclude which problem underlies lymphadenitis without thorough analyzes.

In some cases, the patient may also conclude about the nature of the disease associated with inflammation of the lymph node, in its form and other external signs.

The presence of many small inflamed nodes indicates a weakened immune system. Uneven contours of the site, its immobility and painlessness is the reason for referring to an oncologist.

An increase in lymph nodes without pain when pressed may indicate certain stages of tuberculosis.

The increase in pain with pressure, the rounded shape and mobility of the knot most likely speaks of inflammation of the throat and neck. The location of the inflamed node may also indicate this – as a rule, the submandibular lymph nodes become inflamed during infectious processes in the throat. If, for example, the lymph node on the left is hurt, then this means that, most likely, the source of infection is also on the left side.

It is also impossible to exclude lymphadenitis, which is not associated with any infectious disease, but arises due to mechanical damage to the node’s tissue.

Lymphadenitis in children

In children, inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck with infections occurs most frequently. The causes of frequent inflammations can be SARS and rubella, scarlet fever, infectious mononucleosis. Also, in children, inflammation of the nodes may be an immune response to vaccinations, for example, a BCG vaccination.


The cause of the disease in most cases can only be determined by the doctor during the examination. However, it often happens that the presence of inflammation of the nodes coincides with respiratory symptoms, sore throat, cough, runny nose, and high fever. In such cases, there is no doubt that lymphadenitis is caused by an acute respiratory illness. However, this is not always the case. In some cases, an increase in lymph nodes may indicate a tumor, so if the nodes do not pass for a long time, then you should seek the advice of a specialist.

Which specialist is best to contact if lymph nodes in the neck hurt? This is usually the prerogative of the otolaryngologist. He can send for additional tests – a blood test, an ultrasound scan, a study on the genomes of microorganisms, or to other specialists, for example, to an infectious diseases specialist, oncologist, hematologist, dentist, pulmonologist. If necessary, a biopsy of the site of tissue can be used for diagnosis. To exclude tuberculosis can be used fluorographic study.


How to treat and how to treat lymphadenitis? In most cases, inflammation of the lymph nodes is a secondary symptom, and therefore does not require separate treatment. It is enough to cure the underlying disease and enlarged nodes will decrease in size. The exception is purulent inflammation of the nodes. In this case, surgery may be required.

What if the disease is bacterial in nature? In this case, antibiotics are taken. The specific type of antibiotics depends on the type of pathogen and must be prescribed by a doctor. For fungal skin lesions, antifungals are used – Clotrimazole, Ketonazole.

If the disease has a viral nature (influenza, ARVI, measles, rubella, scarlet fever), then symptomatic therapy is usually performed. Acyclovir in the form of tablets or ointments is prescribed in the case of herpes. In infectious mononucleosis, interferon preparations are prescribed.

If the cause of lymphadenitis is an allergic reaction, then antihistamines are prescribed, and measures are taken to eliminate the effect of the irritant substance on the body. In children, inflammation of the lymph nodes is often observed as a protective reaction from the ingestion of animal saliva, for example, after playing with cats or dogs. In some cases, physiotherapy can be prescribed for primary lymphadenitis.

But the main danger is not even that. Since lymphadenitis in most cases is a secondary disease, then, focusing on the problem of painful and enlarged lymph nodes, you can start the treatment of the underlying disease.

If the patient has a high temperature, then bed rest is recommended, the lack of physical exercise. It is also recommended to drink plenty of warm water – for adults up to 2 liters per day, for children – up to 1 l.

Can traditional medicine be used to treat sore nodes? These methods can be useful to eliminate the underlying causes of the disease – inflammation of the upper respiratory tract and oral cavity. It is well known that many inflammatory processes in the oral cavity help rinsing with sage extract, peppermint and chamomile with good anti-inflammatory properties. However, it hardly makes sense to resort to traditional medicine until the cause of the disease has not been established precisely.

If the cause of chronic lymphadenitis is a weakened patient’s immunity, then general-strengthening decoctions from ginseng, schisandra, and echinacea can help. However, one should exclude the possibility of oncological reasons, since in this case decoctions of herbs can aggravate them.


Untreated purulent lymphadenitis can lead to a number of complications:

  • phlegmon (purulent inflammation of the subcutaneous tissue),
  • periadenitis,
  • thrombophlebitis,
  • fistulas in the esophagus and trachea.

When phlegmon in the lymph nodes develop painful swelling. Also, phlegmon is characterized by pain when swallowing and opening the mouth, an increase in temperature.

Prevention of lymphadenitis

Preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of lymphadenitis include the timely treatment of diseases that can cause it – the flu, acute respiratory infections, rhinitis, sanitation of the oral cavity, personal hygiene, which will reduce the risk of boils. It is also important to strengthen the body as a whole and the immune system. People with hypersensitivity to allergens should avoid exposure.

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