Also known as: adenopathy, lymph node enlargement.

What is lymphadenopathy?

Lymph nodes are bean shaped organs (nodes) found in the axilla (armpit), neck, groin, chest and abdomen that act as filters for lymph fluid as it circulates around the body. When these glands become swollen and enlarged, the condition is known as lymphadenopathy. It may be localized to one part of the body e.g. the groin, or generalized involving many of the lymph nodes areas. Lymphadenopathy is common (particularly in the neck) and though it frequently does not indicate an important problem, it may represent a serious underlying disease.

What causes lymphadenopathy? 

Lymphadenopathy tends to occur from time to time in almost everyone as it is part of the body’s defenses (immune system) against infection and disease. Almost all children, at some time, will develop swollen lymph nodes as they drain local areas infected by bacteria or viruses. When more widespread, they can also occur because of cancer, as a result of juvenile arthritis (or other autoimmune diseases), metabolic disorders, or as a reaction to certain medications. Lymph nodes themselves can become infected, a condition known as lymphadenitis.

What are the signs/ symptoms of lymphadenopathy? 

It is normal to feel some of the small movable nodes (lumps). If many, or larger than normal, or tender, or accompanied by a fever or look red with tenderness over the skin, these may be signs/ symptoms of either a local or a generalized disease process. 

What are lymphadenopathy care options? 

Treatments will depend on the underlying cause. In some cases, enlarged lymph nodes will go away on their own without treatment. Other times, continued evaluation or medications such as antibiotics (or other medications to treat other causes) might be needed. Uncommonly, incision and drainage of the lymph nodes might be required.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 1/11/2018 2:00:01 PM

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