Reactive Lymph Nodes in Neck – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Learn all about lymph nodes and the reactiveness of lymph nodes in neck. It is estimated that there are about 600, spread throughout the body, especially in the groin, armpits, abdomen, submandibular and neck. Lymph nodes play a crucial role as filters of the immune system, thanks to the action of cells that prevent the action of harmful microorganisms.

The reactive lymph nodes refer to a condition of lymph nodes. Reagents because it react, to attacks from viruses and bacteria, which can cause infection or inflammation. In most cases it is not a serious disorder, usually being the symptom of an infection or inflammation in progress. Lymph node enlargement is recognized as a common sign of infectious, autoimmune, or malignant disease.

The term reactive lymph nodes indicate the capacity of the nodes to defend themselves in a situation of potential danger. In fact, its size may increase due to immune cells present in them, what is called lymphadenopathy, in most cases linked to inflammatory processes in the lymph nodes. Rarely is a symptom of neoplastic disease. Another common symptom is noticed feeling pain or discomfort to the touch. A “reactive” lymph node is one which is enlarged because it is trying to fight off an infection.

The lymph nodes are distributed throughout the body and form an integral part of the lymphatic system. Lymphocytes and macrophages, which combat disease-causing elements, are clustered around these nodes. During exposure to harmful substances, these nodes swell in response to elevated levels of inflammatory cells in the affected area. Congenital cysts which are remnants from the in-utero phase of life which can persist and cause problems with swelling and infection also occur in the neck.

The ailments affecting the lymph nodes can be of various types, depending on the cause that provokes, and therefore require different treatment. Evaluation of enlarged lymph nodes can include a trial of antibiotic therapy to see if they will decrease in size, CT scan to determine how many nodes are enlarged, or Fine Needle Aspiration biopsy. In some cases open lymph node biopsy is necessary.

Reactive Lymph Nodes in Neck – Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Reactive Lymph Nodes in Neck

A reactive lymph node is an enlarged lymph node, which is commonly the result of an infection. The enlargement of the node is a feedback mechanism of the immune system when foreign objects, such as viruses, bacteria or cells, invade the body. Reactive lymph nodes on the side of the neck or under jaw are the most common. They may represent an infection around that area such as a tooth infection or abscess, throat infection, viral illness, or upper respiratory infection. Most of the causes of reactive lymph nodes in this area are benign (noncancerous); however, sometimes, swelling of these lymph nodes may also suggest a cancer in the head and neck area.

Reactive Lymph Nodes Symptoms

Reactive lymph nodes symptoms include:

  • Tenderness and pain in the lymph nodes
  • Swelling that may be the size of a pea or kidney bean, or even larger in the lymph nodes
  • Runny nose, sore throat, fever and other indications of an upper respiratory infection
  • General swelling of lymph nodes throughout your body which may indicate an infection, such as HIV or mononucleosis, or an immune disorder, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Hard, fixed, rapidly growing nodes, indicating a possible tumor
  • Fever
  • Night sweats

Reactive Lymph Nodes Causes

Reactive lymph nodes usually occur as a result of exposure to bacteria or viruses. When these are caused by an infection, this is known as lymphadenitis. Rarely, reactive lymph nodes are caused by cancer. Some other causes are as under:

  • Strep throat
  • Measles
  • Ear infections
  • Infected (abscessed) tooth
  • Mononucleosis
  • Skin or wound infections, such as cellulitis
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) the virus that causes AIDS
  • Tuberculosis
  • Certain sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis
  • Toxoplasmosis a parasitic infection resulting from contact with the feces of an infected cat or eating undercooked meat
  • Cat scratch fever a bacterial infection from a cat scratch or bite
  • Lupus a chronic inflammatory disease that can target your joints, skin, kidneys, blood cells, heart and lungs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis a chronic inflammatory disease that targets the tissue that lines your joints (synovium)
  • Lymphoma cancer that originates in your lymphatic system
  • Leukemia cancer of your body’s blood-forming tissue, including your bone marrow and lymphatic system
  • Other cancers that have spread (metastasized ) to lymph nodes

Reactive Lymph Nodes Treatment

Reactive lymph nodes treatment focuses on treating the cause. For example, a bacterial infection may be treated with antibiotics, while a viral infection often goes away on its own. There is no specific treatment for reactive lymph nodes. Generally, the underlying cause needs to be treated, which may result in the resolution of the reactive lymph node. If an enlarged lymph node causes local discomfort, a warm, wet compress can help with pain relief. If the reactive lymph node is due to a cancer of the lymph node (lymphoma), then the swelling will shrink after treating the lymphoma.

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