Enlarged lymph nodes in neck are usually caused due the presence of viral or bacterial infections, or due to attack by other microorganisms. On occasions, enlarged lymph nodes in neck may also be caused due to presence of cancer. It may be noted that lymph nodes are important components of the lymphatic system, which is a constituent of the immune system. The neck region collectively comprises of about 300 nodes, and this lymph node region is referred to as cervical lymph nodes.
A lymph node refers to a circular or bean-shaped, tiny cluster of cells which are enclosed in a capsule of connective tissue. These cells consist of lymphocytes which perform the function of capturing invaders like bacteria, etc.; and macrophages which are responsible for clearing out the captured debris. The cells filter the lymphatic liquid as it travel across the body, and also protects the body by killing the pathogens.
The lymph nodes occur in groups, and each group removes unwanted materials from the specific area of the body. An enlarged lymph node in neck therefore signifies some malfunction, problem, or infection of the neck area. Similarly, enlarged lymph nodes in other regions of the body such as the armpits, groin, etc. signify some abnormality in the body part. Thus, the location of enlarged lymph nodes helps in the diagnosis of the underlying cause of a disorder.
Most cases of enlarged lymph nodes in neck may be accompanied by several other symptoms such as nighttime sweating, fever, increased tenderness and pain of the affected lymph nodes, infection of the respiratory system, etc. Patients must visit a doctor to find out the exact cause of enlarged lymph nodes in neck.
A majority of enlarged lymph nodes in neck cases are generally caused due to infection, especially by viruses. For example, the common cold. However, bacterial, parasitic, and other forms of microbial infections can also result in enlarged lymph nodes in neck. Some of the different causes are listed below:
- Common infections
- Strep throat
- Abscessed/ infected tooth
- HIV infection which causes AIDS
- Wounds or skin infections, like cellulitis or erysipelas
- Ear infection
- Rare infections
- Cat scratch fever
- STDs like syphilis
- Leukemia, a type of cancer which affects the blood-forming tissues of the body, like the bone marrow and the lymphatic system
- Other kinds of cancers that have spread or metastasized to the lymph nodes
- Immune system disorders
- Rheumatoid arthritis
In rare instances, enlarged lymph nodes in neck may also be caused due to intake of preventive malarial drugs, a few types of anti-seizure medications, etc.
Treatment of enlarged lymph nodes in neck
Treatment of enlarged lymph nodes in neck is aimed at finding the cause of the condition and then curing it.
Thus, enlarged lymph nodes in neck caused by bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, while viral infections can be treated with anti-viral drugs.
Cancers can be treated as per the varied methods, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, etc.