Causes and treatment for swollen glands in the neck
A lump on the neck is always a cause for concern. The swollen glands in the neck may protrude from the front or even from the sides. These glands are actually lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are bunches of white blood cells (WBCs) that are present throughout the body. These lymph nodes may be found in the neck, armpits, and the groin. When the body is attacked by an infection, lymph nodes respond by increasing their WBC count to fight off diseases. This causes them to get inflamed and swollen in size. The swelling of the lymph nodes leads to a lump called neck mass. Most of the time, lumps are tender to the touch and not painful at all. In some cases, they are accompanied by a certain level of discomfort that is experienced while walking or bending over.
Let’s take a look at the main causes for swollen glands in the neck, understand when you should consult a doctor, and explore treatment options.
What are the illnesses that cause swollen glands in the neck?
Some of the ailments that may lead to swollen glands in the neck include the following:
- Common ear and throat diseases such as ear infection, strep throat, sinus infection, tonsillitis, mouth sores, and an infected tooth.
- Immune system diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
- Conditions related to the thyroid gland such as hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and goiter.
- Cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia that affect the lymph nodes.
- Fatal diseases such as HIV and AIDS.
- Certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis and gonorrhea.
- Other diseases that include measles, toxoplasmosis, tuberculosis, gingivitis, and cat scratch fever.
Are there any other symptoms that accompany swollen glands in the neck?
- Swollen glands in the neck are often accompanied by coughing and a runny nose. In some cases, the cough could be dry whereas, in others, it could be accompanied by a phlegm discharge.
- In some cases, there might be a high fever, chills, and body ache.
- Some patients also experience a feeling of constant fatigue accompanied by night sweats.
When should you see a doctor?
Swollen glands in the neck may lead to the formation of an abscess (pus-filled lump) if left untreated. Moreover, a lump could also be malignant. Thus, it is important to get an early diagnosis to help in better recovery. Here are some instances when you must visit a doctor:
- If you notice a swelling or a lump that persists for more than a week.
- If the lump on the neck is hard and does not move easily.
- If the swollen glands in the neck are also accompanied by a swelling that develops in the armpits and the groin areas.
- If you develop a fever, cough, and night sweats with the swollen lumps.
- If you experience sudden weight loss, in spite of no change in diet or physical activity.
- If there is any change in the skin color around the area of the lumps.
- If the lumps pain or feel tender to the touch.
How are neck lumps diagnosed?
- The doctor will conduct a physical examination by feeling the lumps.
- He or she may ask you a few questions as to whether these lumps pain and for how long you have had them.
- Certain other tests such as a biopsy, a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, and a computerized tomography (CT) scan may also be advised to determine the kind and extent of the infection.
What are the treatment options for swollen glands in the neck?
- In most cases, lumps in the neck are caused by a bacterial infection. This is treated with the help of antibiotics and sufficient bed rest.
- In case the lumps are detected to be malignant, then chemotherapy and radiation therapy are recommended for cancer treatment.
- In some cases, anti-inflammatory medications are also prescribed. This is usually done when the swelling is due to immune system diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.