Swollen lymph nodes in the neck usually arise due to simple infections, such as colds, flu or sore throats, for example. However, lymph nodes in the neck may also be a sign of a more serious problem, such as cancer or tumor, in the region around the lymph node.
The main causes for the appearance of swollen lymph nodes in the neck are:
1. Flu and colds
This is one of the main causes of the appearance of swollen lymph nodes and happens due to an infection by common viruses like those of the flu or the cold. In this type of problem, the lymph nodes can arise anywhere on the neck.
What to do: one must be treated for the flu or the cold, because the lymph nodes will disappear when the virus is eliminated.
2. Sore throat
Although the sore throat may arise in cases of flu, it can also happen due to bacterial infections, as in tonsillitis, for example. In these cases, the lymph nodes become swollen due because the immune system overworks to fight the infection.
Besides the lymph nodes, that usually appear on the side of the neck, it is also possible to have other symptoms like sore throat, especially when swallowing, fever and bad breath.
What to do: It is advised to consult a general practitioner to assess the need for treatment with antibiotics to cure the sore throat.
Ear infections, also known as otitis are similar to a sore throat and therefore also activate the immune system, which can lead to the appearance of swollen lymph nodes, especially in the region behind the ears.
This type of infection also causes other symptoms such as ear pain, difficulty hearing, itching, or the production of pus.
What to do: You should go to a otolaryngologist to evaluate the infection and start using antibiotics if necessary. Usually, the lymph nodes disappear as soon as the infection is treated.
4. Wounds or stings on the skin
Wounds and stings are places where bacteria and viruses can easily enter the body, and when this happens, the immune system begins working to eliminate the problem. In more severe cases, where there is a high number of microorganisms the immune system works in excess and can lead to the swelling of the lymph nodes.
What to do: Identify the wound or sting area and assess for signs of infection such as redness, swelling, or severe pain. If this happens, you should go to a general practitioner to start the appropriate treatment.
5. Autoimmune diseases
Autoimmune diseases such as HIV, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis severely affect the immune system and, therefore, damaged defense cells can accumulate in the lymph nodes, causing them to become swollen, which lead to the appearance of lumps.
In these cases, the swollen lymph nodes can appear in several places of the body, and not just the neck, without the development of other symptoms.
What to do: If there is suspicion of having an autoimmune disease, it is advised to go to a general practitioner for general testing and initiate appropriate treatment if necessary.
The different types of cancer require a the immune system to work at a high level, so it is common for the appearance of swollen lymph nodes in various regions of the body. However, the most common types of cancer that cause lymph nodes are lymphomas and leukemia.
What to do: When all other causes have been excluded, but the lymph nodes are still present, blood tests should be done to identify tumor markers or other diagnostic tests, such as CT or magnetic resonance imaging.
How is treatment done
Swollen lymph nodes are the body's response to the presence of invading microorganisms and / or inflammations, its treatment consists in eliminating them. Therefore, it may be necessary to take painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs or even antibiotics depending on what is causing the them.
It is not very frequent, but the lymph node in the neck may be one of the symptoms of lymphoma, a type of tumor that affects the immune system and in this case an oncologist should be consulted, and the treatments are done with radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
But, a great home remedy for lymph nodes is the clay poultice with grated onion, which helps the body in fighting the invading agents. Consuming foods rich in vitamin C and drinking plenty of water is also indicated to strengthen your defenses.
When to go to the doctor
Since swollen lymph nodes in the neck can be a sign of serious problems, it is recommended to consult a general practitioner when the they appear for no apparent reason, increase in size over time, are very hard or are accompanied by other symptoms such as persistent fever, sweats nocturnal or uncaused weight loss.