Have you ever experienced swollen glands in your neck? Swollen glands, also known as lymph nodes, are part of your body’s immune system and can become enlarged when your body is fighting off an infection or illness. It’s a common condition that can be caused by various factors, from minor infections to serious illnesses.
While swollen glands in the neck can be uncomfortable and even painful, they’re usually not a cause for alarm. However, in some cases, they may be a sign of a more serious condition that requires medical attention. In this article, we’ll explore the causes of swollen glands in the neck, when to seek medical help, and how to treat this common condition.
What are Lymph Nodes?
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped structures located throughout the body that are part of the lymphatic system. The primary function of lymph nodes is to filter lymph fluid, a fluid produced by the body to transport foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses, away from the body’s tissues and organs.
The lymph nodes contain specialized cells that can detect and recognize these foreign substances and trap them in the nodes, thus preventing them from spreading throughout the body.
Lymph nodes can be found in the neck, armpits, and groin, among other places. Each group of lymph nodes is connected by lymphatic vessels, which help to transport the lymph fluid.
When a person has an infection, the lymph nodes in that area can become swollen and tender as they fight off the foreign substance.
The most common cause of swollen glands in the neck is an infection, such as the common cold or strep throat. These infections can cause fluid buildup in the lymph nodes, leading to enlargement.
What does a swollen neck gland feel like?
Swollen neck glands can feel like a lump, or several lumps, in the neck area. Depending on the size of the swollen glands and the underlying cause, the lump(s) can be tender to the touch, causing discomfort and pain. Sometimes, the lump(s) may move around as the individual moves their head or neck.
In addition to feeling a lump, a person with swollen neck glands may experience other symptoms, such as a sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and difficulty swallowing.
Swollen glands in the neck may also cause the individual to have a fever, chills, and night sweats. In some cases, individuals may also experience fatigue, body aches, and a general feeling of being unwell.
When swollen glands in the neck are caused by an infection, they are usually tender to the touch and may be associated with other symptoms, such as fever, sore throat, or swollen tonsils.
If the cause is allergies, the glands may not be tender and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as sneezing or itchy skin.
Common Causes of Swollen Glands in Neck
Knowing what causes swollen glands can help identify whether you need medical attention. The following are some causes of enlarged lymph nodes in the neck:
Infections like tuberculosis, Lyme disease, and malaria can cause swollen glands. Bacterial infections and viral infections may also cause your glands to swell. These types of conditions are often mild and resolve on their own without treatment.
- Viral infections: Infections such as mononucleosis, influenza, and HIV
- Bacterial infections: streptococcal infection or meningitis
Swollen glands in adults’ necks may result from cancer. Cancerous tumors can cause inflammation of the lymph nodes, resulting in swollen glands.
In cancer, the tumor can press on nearby organs, causing them to swell and feel complete. The lymph nodes in the neck may also enlarge as they try to fight off the cancer cells.
About 20% of adults with swollen glands in their necks have cancer. Cancerous tumors are often found in the lymph nodes, tiny sacs containing white blood cells and other substances that help fight infection and disease.
Allergies to pollen, grasses, and dust mites can make you more likely to develop swollen glands around your neck. Some people also experience itching after exposure to certain fragrances or chemicals in perfumes and cosmetics. If you have allergies to these materials, you may notice swelling around your neck when exposed.
4. Hormonal changes
Hormonal changes can also be one of the causes of swollen glands in your neck. If your hormone levels change over time, it can affect your body’s ability to regulate them.
Additionally, it results in an imbalance of hormones that leads to a swollen gland in your neck or other parts of your body.
5. Genetic problems
In rare cases, there may be genetic problems that can cause you to have swollen glands in the neck. This condition may occur if one or more of your parents has a disorder that causes similar symptoms. When it gets to this case, your physician can adequately identify and treat the disease.
6. Stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety can also increase the chances of developing swollen glands in your neck due to their effect on your endocrine system (hormones).
7. Submandibular lymphadenopathy
When your sinuses become inflamed, you may experience swelling around your neck. This condition is called submandibular lymphadenopathy (submandibular lymphadenopathy).
Mononucleosis is a common viral infection that can also cause swollen glands in your neck. Sometimes it can cause fever and fatigue, but most often, it causes flu-like symptoms like sore throat and stomach pain. These symptoms usually go away after about two weeks.
Other causes of swollen glands in the neck are:
- Inflammation (Inflammation from conditions like tonsillitis or an ear infection)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Colds and flu
- Strep throat
- Dental infections
- Skin wounds
- Injury to your neck
What are the treatments for swollen glands in the neck?
There are multiple treatments for neck lymph node enlargement.
1. find out the Causes
The first step to treating swollen lymph nodes in the neck is to find out what is causing them to swell. Doctors treat neck swelling by applying pressure to the area, applying ice packs, and restricting movement while sleeping.
Additionally, some people report that applying ice packs to the area and walking around in a cold environment reduces swelling.
Another treatment option is acupuncture, which involves inserting needles into specific points on the body to promote healing and reduce pain. Some studies have shown that acupuncture reduces discomfort caused by swollen areas.
If your lymph nodes are still swollen after a week, your doctor will likely start you on an antibiotic such as doxycycline (Vibramycin) or minocycline (Minocin) to fight infection.
These antibiotics won’t affect the swollen glands directly, but they will help prevent infection from spreading throughout your body. In addition, these medications may make it easier for the glands to shrink down over time.
Treatment with corticosteroids is used when the swelling is severe enough to cause discomfort or interfere with daily activities. Corticosteroids reduce swelling by reducing the amount of fluid volume in a person’s body;
they also decrease inflammation and pain caused by swelling. Corticosteroid injections are often given until symptoms improve or disappear; most people experience relief within three days of starting treatment with corticosteroids.
The swelling can sometimes spread to other body parts (metastatic). Your doctor may recommend that you see a surgeon if this happens. Surgery is the treatment for large, infected lumps.
First, the doctor will remove the lump and any surrounding inflamed or infected tissue. This procedure goes with local anesthesia but may also require general anesthesia. Recovery time after surgery is usually two to three days.
5. Radiation therapy
Radiation therapy is another option for treating large, infected lumps in the neck caused by cancerous tumors or thyroid disorders.
The doctor will deliver X-rays to kill off any remaining cancer cells and shrink the tumor so that it cannot grow back or spread to other parts of your body. After treatment, you may be required to remain in the hospital for many days.
Swollen Glands in the neck of children
Swollen glands in the neck of a child can be a worrying sign of an underlying illness. Common causes can include bacterial and viral infections such as tonsillitis, ear infections, and colds.
In some cases, the swelling can be due to an infection elsewhere in the body, such as a urinary tract infection. It is important to seek medical advice if your child has swollen glands in their neck, as they may need antibiotics or other treatments.
Swelling can last for a few days or up to three weeks and should gradually decrease. If the swelling persists or becomes more swollen, it is important to seek medical attention.
Other signs that may accompany swollen glands in the neck include fever, sore throat, headache, and fatigue. Ensure your child is eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of rest.
Swollen glands in the neck on one side
Swollen glands in the neck on one side can be caused by various conditions, from viral illnesses such as the common cold or flu to bacterial infections such as strep throat.
In some cases, swollen glands could be a sign of a more serious or chronic condition such as lymphoma or HIV. It is important to see a doctor if the swelling persists for more than a week or if accompanied by fever, sore throat, or other symptoms.
Swollen glands in the neck with a rash
Swollen glands in the neck with a rash are common symptoms of an infection. It is usually caused by a virus or bacteria, such as strep throat or mononucleosis. The rash may also be a sign of an allergic reaction.
Treatment depends on the cause. Antibiotics may be prescribed if a bacterial infection is suspected. If the cause is a virus, medications may be used to reduce the symptoms, such as fever and aches. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may be used to reduce swelling and pain.
Swollen glands in the neck after covid vaccine
Swollen glands in the neck are a common side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine. The swelling is usually mild and self-limited, meaning it should improve on its own within a few days. This is because the vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system, causing it to produce antibodies and other chemicals in response.
Although it may be alarming, swollen glands after the COVID-19 vaccine are usually not a cause for concern. The swelling should go down on its own in a few days and should not cause any long-term damage.
It is important to drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest while the swelling is present. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can also help relieve discomfort.
When to see a doctor?
If you experience swollen glands in your neck that last longer than two weeks or become increasingly swollen, tender, or painful, it is important to see a doctor.
Swollen glands can indicate an infection, such as a cold, strep throat, or mono. However, swollen glands can also result from an underlying medical condition, such as an autoimmune disorder, cancer, or an infection.
In addition to swollen glands, other symptoms to look out for include fever, sore throat, or difficulty swallowing. If you experience any of these symptoms, along with swollen glands, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
Your doctor will be able to determine the cause of your swollen glands and provide the appropriate treatment. Depending on the cause, this may include antibiotics, a change in diet, or further testing.