One of the most common reasons that I see people in my consulting room is because they’re worried about swollen gland, and usually they’re talking about swollen glands in their necks. I suspect the reason so many people worry about swollen glands is that they know that they can be a symptom of cancer. Well here’s the good news: they almost always mean something much less scary. So let’s think a little bit about what they are.
So we can understand why you get them, and what you need to look out for basically your glands, or quot;lymph glandsquot; or quot;lymph nodesquot; are kind of like stations on a complicated railway network and the railway lines are your lymph channels. Now those lymph channels are filled with a fluid called lymph, and they carry the white blood cells which help your body to fight off infection around your body.
If you get an infection in one part or if your body spots an quot;invaderquot; it activates your body’s immune system, your defense mechanisms, and they send white cells rushing to the spot. They’ll congregate at that Station, that lymph node, and that’s why glands swell. If your slim you may be able to feel normal size glands actually they’re about the size of a pea or a bit smaller and some of them are just underneath the skin whereas others.
Are buried deep inside the inside of your tummy and inside your chest but those ones that you can feel, are mostly in the armpits in the groin and round the head and neck now, you have title tracks of lymph glands which go behind there and a little group in front of your ears you have more underneath the chin and yet more just above your collar bone here. We also have a chain which goes round the back of your scalp, right at the bottom there.
So there are lots and lots of glands, and actually if you feel one, it may not be enlarged at all however by far the most common reason for lymph glands to get swollen is infection, and that does cause enlargement. Kids who have a lot of tonsillitis or sore throats, their glands will be going up and down like that all the time. If you have an infection it’ll often make your glance well very quickly because your body is rushing very quickly to the spot.
Those glands will not only be large, but then also be tender now which glands will be swollen will depend on where the infection is so for instance your whole leg cranes to the limp glands in your groin, so an infection in your toe could cause swollen glands in your groin. Very much less likely, breast cancer, or an infection in your breast, drains to the lymph glands in your armpit so it could cause inflammation if those ones there.
Obviously, sore throats could also cause swollen glands inside your neck, but so too can say an infection on the skin of your scalp. Cancer much less commonly causes inflammation. Some infections like glandular fever can make all your glands swell, some cancers, such as cancer of the lymph system itself can make all your glands swell but those swollen glands tend in cancer to be much more slow.
Lymph Nodes Swollen Glands Andrew Alexander MD
Lymph nodes help your body recognize and fight germs, infections and other foreign substances. A swollen gland is an enlargement of one or more lymph nodes. We went to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs and spoke with Andrew Alexander, asking him to tell us why people get swollen glands? Glands are important Be glad you have them. Now everybody needs them because if you don’t have them you have real trouble. They’re part of the immune system. Lymphatic tissue is really what we’re talking about here. They lymph system is a system where fluid is retrieved back from the peripheral tissues back towards the heart. Now when that happens it goes through.
A series of these glands or lymph nodes. Lymph glands are throughout your entire body the most prominent ones that you’ll see as a patient are going to be in your neck, your arm pit and your groin and these are tissue once again I said that fluid comes back into it. Now the most important thing about the fluid is that first it’s being retrieved from the body so you don’t swell up but secondly, it’s full of white blood cells, infection fighters where these cells can identify foreign material like viruses like things that don’t belong there and then they become activated in the lymph nodes, they can magnify the response and with some memory now they can send out little infection fighters on white blood cells.
Throughout the system to fight further infection. It’s normal to have an infectious response. You want to have an infectious response, you want to have your immune system activated to anything that’s foreign. And so if you get a cold, you’re going to swell up, now upper respiratory the glands that are most prominent are the tonsils. Tonsils are part of the lymphatic system. The glands of the neck will often swell. If you have an eye infection or pink eye, you’re going to have swelling right in front of the ears because that’s where the drainage occurs as the lymph tissue goes towards the heart, towards that lymph node where it activates and magnifies that response so that infection fighting cells.
Can be specific for that particular attacker but there are also other things, bacteria, the most common cause of an enlargement nowadays is cat scratch fever. A lot of cats run around the house, about half of them are infected with this bacteria and so you can get a lymph node that be enlarged and we take lymph nodes out because sometimes they’re malignant. But the large majority of those are infectious and so there’s lymph nodes that enlarge from bacterial causes. Some of the more famous ones in history, syphilis, tuberculosis, the bubonic plague. These are things whether they’re bacteria or from ticks and bacteria from ticks, the bite occurs and the regional lymph node tries to wall off that infection and sometimes.
It’s a disaster because of these huge leaking nodes of the past. Today we have antibiotics, we cure those. Then there’s the real problematic notes. A rarely small amount of these are cancerous and so depending upon the patient, we always want them to be very cognizant of the size and duration of these lymph nodes. If they get to within about three quarters of an inch in size and they haven’t gone away in a couple of weeks you need to have a pow wow with your and let you and them together decide what the next step is. If they stay there, the get biopsied and then there are high risk people because there are some lymphomas, there are cancer to the lungs, there are breast cancers that go to their.
Regional protective nodes. Breast cancer go to the arm pit. Some of the lung cancers might make a node above the clavical so if you have a smoker who’s been coughing and they have a lump up here in the so called Virchow’s node, that’s problematic. Alexander told us how serious swollen glands can be. I remember when I was a kid, if you had a red streak going up your arm the regional wisdom was that when it got to your heart you died. Well that’s not really true, that’s lymphangitis. Now there’d be one where you treat because the most common cause there would be a gram positive bacteria, a staph or a strep. That would be treated with antibiotics, so that regional lymph node would be treated. A cat.
Scratch fever would be treated, tuberculosis and it’s associated nodes would be treated, but you’re watching most of these and doing nothing hoping they’re viral but time is on your side. You have a couple weeks, if they don’t regress, if they stay three quarters of an inch, two centimeters in size, it’s time to talk to your doc with the thought that maybe they’ll be a biopsy if the next treatment doesn’t work.