Lymph Nodes

What are Lymph Nodes?

Lymph nodes are oval-shaped organs found throughout your body and are a component of the lymphatic system. They occur in groups and are located in the legs, neck, armpits and other different places in your body2.

cervical-posterior-lymph-nodes-in-body-upper-median-or-lower-axillary-man-glands

Lymph Nodes grouping of body

The lymphatic system defends the body against diseases and other infections. The system also ensures that fluids are effectively drained in our body.

Locations-of-major-lymph-nodes-1

Lymph Node Locations of Human Body

 

lymph nodes of neck

Lymph Nodes of Face & Neck

superficial_lymphatics

Superficial Lymphatics of Humans

Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is made up of lymphocytes cells, a form of white blood cells. Lymphocytes cells are of two types3:

B lymphocytes

These cells produce antibodies to help protect the body against bacteria and viruses. The antibodies affix to the bacteria and virus making it easy for other immune system to destroy them.

T lymphocytes

These cells are very many in our body and have different roles. Some of them can help in destroying unusual cells and bacteria or viruses in the body. While others can enhance the activity of immune system of other cells in the body.

Functions

Protect the body against infections

Lymph nodes, together with white blood cells ensure that our body’s immune system is functioning effectively. These organs also filter any unfamiliar substances and microbes entering your body and help protect us against infections.

Normally, the lymph fluid has lymphocytes. This fluid is transported through blood as well as lymph nodes.

Once your body has an infection, the antigens are present in the body. Dendritic cells are released into the body and carry these antigens to the lymphatic system and eventually to the lymph nodes. The lymphocytes in lymph nodes produce antibodies and release them in your body to search and eliminate the infection.

Lymph Nodes Issues And Problems

Lymph nodes are vital in our bodies. However they are also prone to diseases and other issues just like other organs o f the body. These issues hinder the lymph nodes from performing their function effectively. The following are some of the issues that affect lymph nodes:

Inflamed lymph nodes

Once you notice swellings on the lymph nodes, it may indicate that your body has a problem. The affected lymph node is painful and the area around it is tender. The swelling can vary in size; it can be small or large.

Various factors and conditions can affect the lymph nodes such as:

Infections

A number of infections can affect lymph nodes such as:

Cold

Several viruses can cause cold infections, but rhinoviruses are the most known for this type of infection. These viruses can enter your body via the nose, mouth or eyes. The virus can spread via fluid drops into the air every time an infected person talks or sneezes.

Another way of spreading cold viruses is through indirect contact. Sharing infected objects such as utensils, phones and clothing can also spread the cold virus. When you touch your nose, mouth or eyes after contact with contaminated materials, you will be infected.

Cold can cause lymph nodes in your neck or at the back of your ear to swell.

Measles

This is a viral infection that affects your respiratory tract caused. It a highly infectious disease spread through direct contact with saliva or mucus that has a virus. A person with this virus can release it the air through sneezing or coughing.

Any person close to the contaminated air can be infected. Sharing items such as food, utensils as well as drinking from same glass can elevate your risk of infections.

Measles is more common in children especially those who are not vaccinated. The infection starts as a swelling on the head and can spread to other parts of your body.

Injury

Lymph nodes can also swell through any form of injury such as piercing the area around these organs.

Cancers

Several cancers can affect the function of lymph nodes. These cancers include:

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

This is a malignant tumor that begins in white blood cells; they are known as lymphocytes. This cancer can start in any of the types of lymphocytes (B lymphocytes and T lymphocytes).Non-Hodgkin Lymphomas are of many types and can occur in various parts of your body. They also develop and spread at different rates.

Leukemia

This type of cancer occurs in parts of the body that form blood including the bone marrow.

Immune system diseases

Disorders that cause your immune system to act abnormally and destroy health tissues and organs in the body can affect the lymph nodes. These disorders include: Lupus and Rheumatoid arthritis.

Affected lymph nodes: the cause is Lupus.

Fig. Affected lymph nodes: the cause is Lupus.

Symptoms of Affected Lymph Node

Signs and symptoms of an affected lymph node depend on the underlying cause. You can have swellings on the entire body and also fever. Running nose and sweating at night is also common is some people.

Diagnosis

The following test can be used to diagnose swollen lymph nodes

Physical test

You doctor will check the skin under your lymph nodes for swellings, warmth and tenderness.

Blood tests

 A sample of blood can be taken and analyzed to determine the cause of infection. These tests include a complete blood count which helps in assessing the general health and detect diseases or infections.

Imaging tests

X –ray and computed tomography scan can be performed on the affected area to find out the problem.

Biopsy

You can also go through a biopsy. Your doctor extracts a sample of your lymph node tissue and examines it to determine if it’s cancerous or not.

Treatment

Managing an affected lymph node depends on the underlying cause. The following treatment options can be used:

  • Antibiotics can be used to treat swollen lymph nodes caused by bacterial infections. While antiviral drugs for viral infections.
  • For cancer as the cause, surgery, chemotherapy and radiation can be used to remove the tumor.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Consume food that has vitamins (A, E and C) and minerals to boost your immune system. These foods include: vegetables, citrus fruits, among others.

Inflamed lymph nodes if left untreated can cause undesirable complications such as tooth abscess. Abscess is pus formed in certain areas of your body caused by an infection. Another complication is blood infection known as sepsis.

Reference list

  1. Swollen lymph nodes. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/swollen-lymph-nodes/symptoms-causes/dxc-20258981
  2. http://www.emedicinehealth.com/swollen_lymph_glands/article_em.htm
  3. https://www.healthresource4u.com/lymph-nodes-location-function-and-its-specifics.html
  4. Lymph nodes. http://www.organsofthebody.com/lymph-nodes/

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