The lymph nodes are essential components of the lymphatic system. It is a known fact that the lymphatic system is an important part of the immune system and is plays a vital role in the defense of the body against attack by viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. The presence of swollen lymph nodes can be an indication of infections in the body.
The lymph nodes are soft, tiny, beach shaped structures which are present throughout the body. It can be a single node, or can occur in clusters. Each lymph node is a group of cells which are contained in a capsule of connective tissue.There are many ducts which exit and enter them. The node cells consist of lymphocytes which play an important role in making antibodies, as well as macrophages which are responsible for getting rid of foreign substances and debris from the body. The lymph nodes serve as the cleaner cells of the body.
The mediastinal lymph nodes occur in the middle section of the chest, just between the two lungs. It process the lymph fluid from parts of the upper abdomen, the center region of the chest, and lungs.The mediastinal lymph nodes comprise of many lymph node groups, particularly along the esophagus, the trachea, and in the area between the diaphragm and lungs. About 5 lymph node groups are present along the trachea.The ducts coming out of the mediastinal lymph nodes drain the lymph fluid to the left subclavian vein.
It may be noted that the mediastinal lymph nodes are tightly packed with the lymph nodes in the abdomen, along the stomach and the esophagus. Due to this fact, varied kinds of cancers which effect the esophagus or the stomach tends to easily via this lymphatic system. The primary passage of lymphatic fluid from the abdominal glands is through the mediastinum, across the thoracic duct, eventually draining the fluid to the left venous angle located at the meeting-point of deep jugular and subclavian veins.
Causes of swollen mediastinal lymph nodes
Lymph nodes play an important role in fight off infections and diseases. During this process they tend to swell up, which is an indication of the presence of an infection. The mediastinal lymph nodes also tend to experience swelling, pain, and increase tenderness when the chest, abdomen, and the chest/abdominal organs become infected.
Varied types of cancers, immune disorders, etc. can also cause the mediastinal lymph nodes to swell up, in addition to inflammation of lymph nodes present in other parts of the body.
Treatment of swollen mediastinal lymph nodes
The treatment of inflamed mediastinal lymph nodes is dependent on finding the cause of the condition, and then treating that underlying disease.
Swollen mediastinal lymph nodes cause due to infections by bacteria are treated with antibiotics. Severe conditions like tuberculosis require prolonged treatment with drugs.
Viral infections can be treated with anti-viral medications.
If a doctor suspects that the swollen mediastinal lymph nodes have been caused due to presence of cancers, then a biopsy is needed to diagnose the condition. Cancer is treated with chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and other methods.