Lymphadenopathy: all about the swelling of the lymph nodes

Lymphadenopathy is the medical term commonly used to refer to swollen lymph nodes. Having swollen lymph nodes is a sign of aggression in the body. Lymphadenopathy can thus be perceived as a warning signal. They can be related to mild and transient infections but also have more serious causes. How to treat them? Can they be prevented? Here are our explanations.

What is lymphadenopathy?

Definition of lymphadenopathy

By definition, lymphadenopathy is an abnormality in the lymph nodes. However, this medical term is more often used to refer to adenomegaly, which is swollen lymph nodes. This phenomenon occurs in the case of aggression of the organism.

This is because lymph nodes are small organs that play a key role in the immune system for the elimination of pathogens. The lymph nodes are the site of the proliferation of lymphocytes, immune cells whose function is to eliminate these pathogens. When the lymph nodes swell or swell, the body is facing aggression.

Different types of lymphadenopathy

There are different types of lymphadenopathy.

Lymphadenopathy may concern:

  • only one type of lymph node;
  • several lymph nodes simultaneously. In this second case, we speak of polyadenopathy or sometimes generalized lymphadenopathy.

You should know that the body has many lymph nodes distributed at different levels. The best known are those of the neck. Generally, they are easily palpable. They are part of the superficial lymph nodes, such as those located in the groin and armpits. Conversely, there are also deep lymph nodes present within the chest and abdomen.

In fact, it is also possible to distinguish lymphadenopathy in the following way.

Superficial lymphadenopathy

Cervical lymphadenopathy

This is the one that concerns the lymph nodes of the neck.

Axillary lymphadenopathy

This occurs in the armpits.

Inguinal lymphadenopathy

It is located in the groin.

Deep lymphadenopathy

Such as mediastinal lymphadenopathy which takes place at the level of the mediastinum in the chest.

What causes lymphadenopathy?

The most common case is cervical lymphadenopathy. This occurs in the lymph nodes of the neck. It may be due to:

  • infection of the ENT sphere, such as pharyngitis;
  • infection of a salivary gland
  • a dental abscess
  • etc.

If the causes mentioned above are generally benign and transient, other more serious aggressions can be at the origin of lymphadenopathy. There are often two types: infectious lymphadenopathy and cancerous lymphadenopathy.

Infectious lymphadenopathy

Infectious lymphadenopathy can be due to:

  • staph or streptococcus infection
  • cat scratch disease;
  • tularemia;
  • sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis;
  • tuberculosis;
  • toxoplasmosis;
  • infectious mononucleosis;
  • etc.

Cancerous lymphadenopathy

Cancerous lymphadenopathy is linked to:

  • cancer of the lymphatic system, more commonly known as lymphoma
  • lymph node metastases, which are secondary tumors that may result from cancers of the ENT, tongue, thyroid, abdomen, pelvis, breast, external genitalia, anal canal, or skin.

What are the symptoms of lymphadenopathy?

The symptoms of lymphadenopathy are numerous and extremely varied. They depend on:

  • the type of lymphadenopathy;
  • and especially the cause of swollen lymph nodes.

However, it is possible to distinguish some typical symptoms of superficial lymphadenopathy. These are usually characterized by swollen or swollen and painful nodes.

Special case of inflammatory lymphadenopathy

Sometimes the swelling of the nodes is accompanied by an inflammatory reaction. The resulting lymphadenopathy is called inflammatory and is then often characterized by a rise in fever.

How to diagnose lymphadenopathy?

Superficial lymphadenopathy is usually easy to diagnose. The swelling of the superficial lymph nodes is palpable, even visible in the case of cervical lymphadenopathy.

During the consultation, the health professional will be interested in the location of lymphadenopathy and the “consistency” of the lymph nodes. These observations will guide the diagnosis, which will then be supported by the analysis of perceived symptoms.

Medical examinations may be set up to complete the diagnosis in some cases of superficial lymphadenopathy, and systematically for deep lymphadenopathy.

Possible reviews include:

  • lymph node aspiration, a sample of lymph nodes using a needle;
  • a lymph node biopsy, which removes and analyzes a lymph node
  • a blood count, which can be placed to confirm infectious lymphadenopathy;
  • microbiological examinations to identify the germ involved in infectious lymphadenopathy;
  • imaging tests, especially in cases of deep lymphadenopathy.

How to treat lymphadenopathy?

Swollen lymph nodes have various causes and may be accompanied by different symptoms. Therefore, there are many treatments to treat lymphadenopathy. Their goal is primarily to treat the cause of lymphadenopathy. For example, support can be based on:

  • treatment with antibiotics for infectious lymphadenopathy;
  • anti-inflammatory treatment in case of inflammatory lymphadenopathy;
  • chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or surgery for cancerous lymphadenopathy.

Can lymphadenopathy be prevented?

There are many possible causes of lymphadenopathy. There can be many ways to prevent it. Herbal medicine can, for example, help prevent certain forms of infectious lymphadenopathy.

Image Credit: Image by cookie_studio on Freepik

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