Can Stress Cause Lymph Nodes To Swell?

There is no direct interrelation between the stress and the swollen lymph nodes, but yet many patients suffering from chronic stress complains about the presence of swollen lymph nodes. Chronic stress is a dangerous proposition, as it is related to various diseases such as cancer and altering in the body’s vital functions such as immune system and metabolism. The nervous system is directly related in the consequences of stress and releases chemicals such as catecholamine and inflammatory mediators. Many of these factors are responsible for the promotion of cancer and many are responsible for compromising the immune system. The exact reason, if any, should be found, that explains the reports of swollen lymph nodes in patients with chronic stress.

Physiology of Stress

Stress causes various changes in the body, both physically and emotionally. There are various diseases which are caused due to stress and can be treated just by removing the factors causing the stress. The body prepares itself for fighting against the stress, whether may be physical or psychological, and in doing so, make various changes in the physiological function in the body. One example for preparing against stress is the activation of sympathetic nervous system. Through various mechanisms, stress affect the memory functions, immune functions, metabolism and make the body more susceptible to diseases. Studies have shown that the people with chronic stress are more prone to cardiovascular disease as compared to people without stress.

Can Stress Cause Lymph Nodes To Swell?

Swollen lymph nodes are condition in which the lymph nodes fights against infection and becomes swollen. Also, the other conditions that may lead to the swollen lymph nodes are cancer and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Thus, it seems that there is no theoretical or medical connection between the swollen lymph nodes and stress and while there is no direct relationship between the two, but certain researches have concluded that stress may be predisposing factor for swollen lymph nodes. This is not clearly visible because swollen lymph node and stress are not form a direct cause and effect relationship. Some relationship do exists because many people with high stress report swollen lymph nodes. The reason for this may be outlined as follows:

  1. Vulnerability To Infection: It has been shown by the researches that stress significantly affects the various functions of the body including immune system. The patients with chronic stress have compromised immune system. Thus, these patients are highly susceptible to infection. Thus, when the infection occurs in these patients, the lymph nodes fight the infection and get swollen. It is to be noted that this can occur in even slightest of infection.
  2. Perception: When the person is in anxiety, everything he perceives is of negative nature. Thus, even when there is no swelling or very mild swelling, as different people have different size of lymph nodes, the patient perceives otherwise. This is due to over-sensitization in stressful conditions.
  3. Muscular Tension: Anxiety and stress causes muscular tension in the body. Many patients judge these tensed muscles as swollen lymph nodes.

The swollen node under these conditions should be analyzed by medical professional in order to properly examine the cause of any swollen lymph nodes.

If the anxiety is the underlying cause of either actual lymph node swelling or perceived swelling, the patient should use various methods to keep anxiety under control.

Conclusion

Stress does not cause swollen lymph node. It appears theoretically correct as there is no relation between the swollen lymph node and stress. However, stress may be a predisposing factor that may indirectly lead to either actual swelling or perceived swelling. The studies concluded that stress may compromise immune system and thus infection occurs in these patients. Lymph nodes fights against these infections and in the process get swollen. This is actual swelling. However, the stress also promotes perceived swelling i.e., the stressful patient always looks at the negative side and may perceive a perfect lymph node as swollen. Further, muscle tone increases in stress and it may be perceived as swelling by the patient.

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