What is lymphadenitis?
Lymphadenitis is an infection of the lymph nodes (also called lymph glands). Lymphadenitis can be one of two types:
- Localized lymphadenitis. This is the most common type. Localized lymphadenitis involves one or just a few nodes that are close to the area where the infection started. For example, nodes enlarged because of a tonsil infection may be felt in the neck area.
- Generalized lymphadenitis. This type of lymph node infection occurs in two or more lymph node groups and may be caused by an infection that spreads through the bloodstream or another illness that affects the whole body.
How common is lymphadenitis?
It is a common complication of certain bacterial infections. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of lymphadenitis?
The common symptoms of lymphadenitis are:
- Red, tender skin over lymph node
- Swollen, tender, or hard lymph nodes
- Lymph nodes may feel rubbery if an abscess (pocket of pus) has formed or they have become inflamed.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes lymphadenitis?
The lymph system (lymphatics) is a network of lymph nodes, lymph ducts, lymph vessels, and organs that produce and move a fluid called lymph from tissues to the bloodstream.
The lymph glands, or lymph nodes, are small structures that filter the lymph fluid. There are many white blood cells in the lymph nodes to help fight infection.
Lymphadenitis occurs when the glands become enlarged by swelling (inflammation), often in response to bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The swollen glands are usually found near the site of an infection, tumor, or inflammation.
Lymphadenitis may occur after skin infections or other infections caused by bacteria such as streptococcus or staphylococcus. Sometimes, it is caused by rare infections such as tuberculosis or cat scratch disease (bartonella).
What increases my risk for lymphadenitis?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is lymphadenitis diagnosed?
If you have lymphadenitis, the most important parts of your diagnosis are usually your history and the physical exam done by your healthcare provider. You may be asked about your symptoms, such as chills and fever, any recent travel, any breaks in your skin, and recent contact with cats or other animals. Then, during the physical exam, your healthcare provider will look for signs of infection near the enlarged lymph nodes.
These tests may be needed to help make the diagnosis:
- Blood tests to look for infection
- Taking a sample of tissue from the lymph node or fluid from inside the lymph node to study under a microscope
- Placing fluid from the lymph node into a culture to see what type of germs grow
How is lymphadenitis treated?
Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment based on:
- How old you are
- Your overall health and medical history
- How sick you are
- How well you can handle specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- How long the condition is expected to last
- Your opinion or preference
The exact type of treatment depends on what type of infection has spread into your lymph nodes. Once an infection has spread into some lymph nodes, it can spread quickly to others and to other parts of your body, so it’s important to find the cause of the infection and start treatment quickly.
Treatment for lymphadenitis may include:
- Antibiotics given by mouth or injection to fight an infection caused by bacteria
- Medicine to control pain and fever
- Medicine to reduce swelling
Surgery to drain a lymph node that has filled with pus
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage lymphadenitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with lymphadenitis:
- Take all your medicines exactly as prescribed and keep all your follow-up appointments.
- Don’t use any over-the-counter medicines without first talking to your healthcare provider.
- Cool compresses and elevating the affected part of your body may help relieve pain and swelling while your medicines are doing their work.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Lymphadenitis. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/infectious_diseases/lymphadenitis_134,80. Accessed November 21, 2017.
Lymphadenitis. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/001301.htm. Accessed November 21, 2017.
Review Date: November 21, 2017 | Last Modified: November 21, 2017