Lymphadenitis (Lymphadenitis is an infection of the lymph nodes)

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Overview

Lymphadenitis is the medical term for enlargement in one or more lymph nodes, usually due to infection. Lymph nodes are filled with white blood cells that help your body fight infections. When lymph nodes become infected, it's usually because an infection started somewhere else in your body. Rarely, lymph nodes can enlarge due to cancer.

You have about 600 lymph nodes in your body, but normal lymph nodes may only be felt below your jaw, under your arms, and in your groin area.

A normal lymph node is small and firm. When lymph nodes become infected, they usually increase in size, become tender, and may be felt in other areas of your body during a physical exam.

Symptoms

The main symptom of lymphadenitis is enlarged lymph nodes. A lymph node is considered enlarged if it is about one-half inch wide. Symptoms caused by an infected lymph node or group of nodes may include:

Nodes that increase in size

Nodes that are painful to touch

Nodes that are soft or matted together

Redness or red streaking of the skin over nodes

Nodes that are filled with pus (an abscess)

Fluid that drains from the nodes to the skin

Causes

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

Risk factors

High risk sexual behaviour - HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, Herpes simplex, Cytomegalovirus.

I.V drug abuse- HIV/ AIDS, Hepatitis B, Endocarditis.

Local soft-tissue infections.

Upper respiratory tract infection.

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Complications

If infection is the cause of your swollen lymph nodes and isn't treated, an abscess may form. Abscesses are localized collections of pus caused by infections. Pus contains fluid, white blood cells, dead tissue, and bacteria or other invaders. An abscess may require drainage and antibiotic treatment.

Prevention

Lymphadenitis is an infection in one or more lymph nodes. When lymph nodes become infected, it's usually because an infection started somewhere else in your body. Lymphadenitis can cause lymph nodes to become enlarged, red, or tender. Treatment may include antibiotics, and medications to control pain and fever.