What is Lymphadenopathy?
Swelling of the lymph nodes is known as Lymphadenopathy. Lymph nodes are the small glands or organs, which form a part of our immune system. The function of the lymph nodes is filtering the lymph fluid. The lymph nodes contain numerous white blood cells, which help the body in fighting against infection. Lymph nodes are present throughout our body. However, they are most easily felt under the arms, neck and near the groin. Lymphadenopathy can develop in one or more of these areas of the body. The swollen lymph nodes are generally found near the site of an inflammation, infection or tumor.
Causes of Lymphadenopathy
- The common cause of Lymphadenopathy is an infection (bacterial, viral or fungal).
- Allergy to a vaccine or medication can also cause Lymphadenopathy.
- Cancer can also cause Lymphadenopathy.
- Diseases or medical conditions which affect the tissue which binds, supports and protects our organs can also cause Lymphadenopathy.
Signs & Symptoms of Lymphadenopathy
Swelling in the lymph nodes is the most obvious sign of lymphadenopathy. In some cases, patient may not have any symptoms. Some of the common symptoms experienced by a patient in Lymphadenopathy include:
- Presence of a red or warm and painful bump/lump under the skin.
- The lymph node can become tender and hard to touch.
- Feeling of more tiredness than normal.
- Appearance of skin rash.
- Unexplained or unintentional weight loss.
- Enlargement of spleen, which is the organ responsible for filtering our blood.
- Night sweats.
Lymphadenopathy Symptoms Which Require Immediate Medical Attention Include:
- Appearance of a new, painful and swollen lymph node.
- If the lymph node remains constantly painful/swollen.
- Persistent skin rash.
- If the lymph node continues to increase in size.
- If the skin surrounding the lymph node becomes red or if there are red streaks surrounding the lymph node.
- If the swollen lymph nodes in the neck are interfering with swallowing or breathing.
- If there is bleeding from the swollen/affected lymph nodes.
Diagnosis of Lymphadenopathy
- Physical examination is done where the doctor checks the lymph node and its location and size.
- Blood tests are done to find out if infection or any other medical condition is causing the lymphadenopathy.
- Chest x-ray is taken to assess the function of heart and lungs.
- Ultrasound is done to visualize the lymph nodes internally.
- CT scan uses x-ray machine with computer for taking pictures of the lymph nodes. A dye may be given to the patient before CT scan to help in better visualization of the lymph nodes. If you ever have had an allergic reaction to contrast dye, then the doctor should be informed of this.
- MRI scan uses computer and powerful magnets for generating pictures of the lymph nodes. Again, in this test a dye can be given to clearly visualize the pictures of lymph nodes. Again, the doctor should be informed if you are allergic to contrast dye. Never enter the MRI room wearing or carrying any metal, as it can lead to serious injury.
- The doctor should always be informed if there is any metal on or in the body.
- Biopsy of the lymph node can be done where a small tissue sample is taken from the affected lymph node and sent to lab for testing to diagnose the cause of lymphadenopathy.
Treatment for Lymphadenopathy
The symptoms of lymphadenopathy can abate on their own without any treatment needed. Otherwise, treatment for lymphadenopathy depends on the cause of lymphadenopathy. The underlying cause of lymphadenopathy needs to be treated for relieving the lymphadenopathy. According to the underlying cause, treatment comprises of medicines for infections and surgery for removing the lymph nodes in cancer can be also done, if needed.