Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenitis)

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Swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenitis)

Question

What is lymphadenitis? Is it serious?

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Answer

Lymphadenitis is inflammation of one or more lymph glands (lymph nodes), usually due to infection. Infections that commonly cause swollen lymph nodes include:

  • Strep throat
  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Ear infections
  • Abscessed tooth
  • Mononucleosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Certain sexually transmitted diseases

The lymph nodes play an important role in defending your body against infection. They help produce antibodies, special proteins that fight off infection. They also stop infection from spreading throughout your body by trapping bacteria and viruses and destroying them.

Infected lymph nodes swell and are usually tender and painful. A doctor typically can confirm a diagnosis of lymphadenitis based on symptoms and physical examination. If a cause can't be easily identified, further testing may be needed, such as a node biopsy or culture. Rarely, inflamed lymph nodes may be due to cancer. Treatment of lymphadenitis is directed at the underlying cause when possible.

Last Updated: 11/23/2005
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