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Swollen Cervical Lymph Nodes: 4 Common Causes, When To See The Doctor & Treatment

swollen cervical lymph nodes

Lymph nodes in the cervical region are found on the sides and back of the neck. Typically, these glands are quite tiny. However, when the diameter of a lymph node exceeds one centimeter, it is swollen.

Cervical lymph nodes are located deep within the neck. As a result, the majority of people without medical knowledge are unable to feel them, even when swollen. However, when checking the neck region, a doctor may detect one or more nodes beneath the skin.

In some circumstances, individuals with swollen cervical lymph nodes may have neck pain and swelling.

Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes

1. Infection

Infection is a frequent cause of enlarged lymph nodes in any part of the body.

When an infection occurs in any part of the body, the lymph nodes in that location become clogged with white blood cells. White blood cells then begin destroying the germs that caused the infection.

The lymph nodes enlarge as a result of the accumulation of white blood cells. Common infections that result in swollen cervical lymph nodes include tonsillitis, common cold, dental infections, strep throat, and ear infections.

2. Lymphoma

Swollen cervical lymph nodes are a less common symptom of malignancy. Lymphomas are cancers that affect the lymph nodes. Typically, these tumors induce enlargement of the lymph nodes in multiple areas of the body.

Lymphoma is classified into two types: Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma can manifest itself in any lymph node on the body, whereas Hodgkin lymphoma typically manifests itself in the neck, chest, or armpits.

Hodgkin lymphoma is highly curable if diagnosed and treated early. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma is less treatable than Hodgkin lymphoma, but this is because doctors may not detect it until it has progressed to an advanced stage.

3. HIV

Swollen lymph nodes are a typical symptom of HIV infection. The lymph nodes are especially susceptible to enlargement during the early, or “acute,” stage of HIV. This is the point at which the body begins to fight the infection.

HIV can enlarge lymph nodes throughout the body. However, it is most frequently associated with cervical lymph node enlargement.

4. Medication

Swollen lymph nodes might arise as a side effect of certain medications on a rare occasion. Swelling in any of the nodes, including the cervical lymph nodes, may occur when medication is the cause.

Though uncommon, antiepileptic medicines and chemotherapeutic agents such as granulocyte colony-stimulating factors may cause lymph node enlargement.

When To See The Doctor

Swollen cervical lymph nodes, in the majority of cases, suggest that the body is battling an infection. Treatment is typically not necessary, as the node should revert to normal size once the infection has cleared.

However, if no other clear indicators of infection are present, an individual should see a doctor. This could be a sign that the swelling is caused by something else, such as cancer or HIV.

The following symptoms should cause an individual to consult with a doctor:

  • pain and swelling that lasts for longer than a few days
  • additional symptoms, such as fever, unexpected weight loss, or fatigue
  • a swollen cervical lymph node that is hard and painless
  • a rapid change in the size of the lymph node
  • swelling in more than one area of lymph nodes, such as in the neck and the groin

Treatment of Swollen Cervical Lymph Nodes

Generally, swollen lymph nodes do not require treatment unless they become painful. However, if the symptoms are particularly distressing, the following home remedies may be beneficial:

  • applying a warm compress several times per day to ease the soreness
  • taking over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to reduce discomfort
  • getting plenty of rest, which helps the body fight off the infection

If symptoms persist or worsen despite self-care, a person should see a doctor. Antibiotics may be prescribed to aid in the resolution of the underlying infection. A person with HIV may receive antiretroviral medications to help keep the virus under control. These drugs work by reducing the amount of the virus in a person’s blood and bodily fluids.


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