Lymph node swelling - swollen lymph nodes

Lymph node swelling - swollen lymph nodes

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Lymph node enlargement is often harmless

Lymph node swellings (lymphomas) can be local, i.e. in a certain body region or generalized, i.e. (almost) occur on the entire body. They also vary in size, shape, consistency and painfulness, which can give the diagnostician initial clues to the causes. In most cases, lymphomas are benign, e.g. as part of a cold or inflammation. However, if there is a lymph node enlargement for several weeks without a recognizable cause, a doctor's visit is urgently recommended for clarification.

Lymph nodes: The "filter station" for tissue water

The so-called lymph nodes are flat-round or lenticular nodules that act as collection points and filter stations for the lymphatic fluid (“tissue water”). They belong to the human lymphatic system (also called "lymphatic system"), which in turn is part of the immune system.

In addition to the defense or control of pathogens, foreign substances and pathologically altered cells (e.g. tumor cells), the lymphatic system has other important tasks: the return transport of the lymphatic fluid from the body tissues into the bloodstream and the transport of nutritional fats.

Lymph nodes are present everywhere in the body (with the exception of the central nervous system) and are responsible for the absorption and filtering of the tissue water of a certain region of the body (regional lymph nodes). They can be found frequently on the neck, under the armpits, in the neck, chest and stomach as well as in the area of ​​the groin, for example.

Usually the small nodules are not visible or noticeable in healthy people. The groin is an exception in some cases, in children and people with a very slender neck they can sometimes be felt there. Usually the knots measure about five to twenty millimeters. In the event of an infection, however, they increasingly form defense cells to combat these and therefore swell (lymph node hyperplasia). If the lymph nodes are more than two centimeters in size, this is a sign that they are busy fighting off diseases.

The location of the swelling often provides information about the cause of the disease - especially if other typical symptoms occur. With tonsillitis, for example, the enlarged lymph nodes appear laterally, in the front area of ​​the neck, which is accompanied by a sore throat, swallowing problems, fever and a lump in the throat.

Causes of lymph node swelling

Swollen lymph nodes usually arise from bacterial and viral infections. It most often occurs in the context of general infections such as a cold and inflammation such as a sore throat or tonsillitis leading to benign enlargements of the lymph nodes in the area of ​​the neck, lower jaw and / or neck.

In the case of bacterial or viral infectious diseases and colds, the lymph nodes hurt, feel soft and can be easily moved with the fingers. The same applies, for example, in the case of tonsillitis (tonsillitis), scarlet fever and an infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (glandular fever).

Other possible causes are blood poisoning (sepsis), drug intolerance (e.g. from penicillin or quinidine), the highly contagious viral diseases rubella and measles, tuberculosis and the globally widespread sexually transmitted disease syphilis (syphilis).

In rare cases, the reason for the complaint is an infection with the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes the so-called toxoplasmosis. Tropical diseases such as malaria or dengue fever are also typically accompanied by an enlargement of the lymph nodes.

In the area of ​​the lymphatic drainage area of ​​a strong local inflammation, inflammation of the lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes themselves can also occur. These often arise from bacterial infections of skin wounds (especially streptococci or staphylococci), but also e.g. due to fungal infections (mycoses) or as a result of limited wound healing in diabetes.

Soft lymphomas in the area of ​​the neck and back of the head with small blotchy rash and moderate fever indicate rubella. If the enlarged lumps appear on at least two parts of the body (except the groin!), They hurt slightly when pressure and persist for more than three months, it can be a contagious HIV infection (AIDS).

Lymph node swelling in autoimmune diseases

A rather rare cause are autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (short: SLE) or rheumatoid arthritis. The rarely occurring sarcoidosis (also called “Boeck's disease”) can also be considered. It is an inflammatory disease in which tiny nodules form in organs due to a defect in the immune system and can thereby limit their function. In principle, these so-called granulomas can affect any organ, but the lungs and lymph nodes between the two lungs are particularly often affected.

In addition to the enlargement of the nodes, in this case there are usually further complaints typical of inflammatory diseases. These include fever, a general feeling of illness and tiredness.

Malignant lymphomas

Lymph nodes that are painless, hard and cannot be moved (but “baked” into the environment) can indicate malignant diseases. For example, in breast cancer (breast cancer), a lymph node metastasis can develop in the armpit, which can be felt as a node under the armpit.

If lymphomas are found on the neck or several parts of the body and there is also a noticeable weight loss and heavy night sweats, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, leukemia and tuberculosis should be excluded.

Treatment for swollen lymph nodes

If there is a relatively harmless cause (such as a cold), lymph node swelling usually does not require special therapy. Because in this case the swelling is an expression of a healthy and normal defense and goes back on itself after the infection has subsided. To alleviate the symptoms, depending on the clinical picture, effective home remedies for sore throats such as gargling with herbal tea or Schüssler salts can be used.

If a serious illness is the trigger, the focus is on the therapy of the underlying illness. With viral infections such as glandular fever, rest, sleep and physical protection are usually the most important factors to support the body's self-healing powers. If necessary, symptoms such as fever or headache can be alleviate with antipyretic drugs such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Bacterial infections such as Bacterial tonsillitis often requires antibiotics. In addition, effective home remedies for tonsillitis can be used to accelerate healing. Pads with healing earth or lemon, curd cheese wrap or gargle with sage tea are particularly suitable.

In the case of malignant lymphomas (Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, etc.), a specially tailored tumor treatment with chemotherapy and radiation is carried out.

Naturopathy for enlarged lymph nodes

In addition to conventional medical approaches, various naturopathic measures can be considered for benign lymphomas. The lymphatic system is considered in naturopathy as an important elimination organ, which is included in the treatment of various physical complaints. These include increased susceptibility to infections, allergies, skin diseases such as Neurodermatitis, gout and diabetes mellitus.

The aim of alternative medical treatment is to support the body's own detoxification and purification and to relieve the lymphatic system so that it can regenerate and the lymphatic flow can start again. Various methods and means are available for this.

For example, diversion procedures have been proven to stimulate the lymphatic flow and restore the body's balance. Above all, cupping, applying cantharid plasters, leech therapy and Baunscheidt therapy are used.

A very effective approach to treating the lymphatic system is manual lymphatic drainage. This is a form of physical therapy that is carried out by specially trained masseurs and physiotherapists. As part of a special type of massage, the flow of the lymph is stimulated by various movements and grip techniques, thereby improving the outflow of fluid stasis in the tissue.

In order for the lymphatic system to function properly, it is important to drink plenty of water (at least 2 liters a day). Various medicinal plants are also available to stimulate the lymphatic system. Stone clover promotes lymph flow and counteracts edema, which is why the herb is also known as a proven home remedy for water in the legs.

Recipe for stone clover tea:
  1. Put one or two heaped teaspoons of finely chopped stone clover in a cup
  2. Pour a quarter liter of boiling water over it
  3. Let the infusion steep for 10 minutes before straining
  4. Drink two to three cups of the tea daily

Other medicinal plants that contribute to a well-functioning lymphatic system include the horse chestnut, nettle and yarrow.

A change in diet and sufficient sleep serve to relieve the entire metabolism. Exercise should have a permanent place in everyday life, because nothing brings the flow of the lymph into motion as much as physical activity. Whether yoga, qigong, walking, dancing, swimming, cross trainers or light bouncing on a small trampoline - it is important that you enjoy the exercise and that you do it regularly. (jvs, nr)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Jeanette Viñals Stein, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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  • Edouard Battegay: Differential diagnosis of internal diseases: from symptom to diagnosis, Thieme, 2017
  • Walter Siegenthaler et al .: Siegenthaler's differential diagnosis: Internal diseases - from symptom to diagnosis, Thieme, 2012
  • Peter Stiefelhagen: "What's behind the enlarged lymph node?", In: MMW - medical progress, Volume 155 Issue 1, 2013, Springer Link
  • Ulrich Fegeler, Elke Jäger-Roman, Klaus Rodens: Practical Guide to Basic Pediatric Care, Elsevier Health Sciences, 2017
  • Heinz-Gert Höffkes, Michael Uppenkamp: Malignant Lymphomas: Biology, Classification and Clinic, Springer, 2013

Video: Less is More For Lymph Node Removal (October 2022).