Doing a quick self-exam is a quick, easy way to check for swollen lymph nodes and other lumps or bumps that could cause concern. These glands that are commonly found in the neck, armpit, groin and back ear are an important part of the immune system that helps your body ward off infection and disease, so they can also serve as a warning sign for many diseases and conditions. In fact, by simply checking the lymph nodes in your neck, you can tell if you may be at risk for parasites and cancer.
Your lymph nodes are small, kidney-shaped glands that transport nutrients, waste, and fluids from the bloodstream and body tissues. Typically, lymph nodes are not uncomfortable or painful, and you’ll likely not even know they are there. However, if one of your lymph nodes becomes swollen or inflamed, that’s a good indicator that something is wrong.
Common Causes of Swollen Glands
If you discover a bump on your neck, behind your ear, or in other locations, it is likely a swollen lymph node. While chances are the swelling will be nothing more serious that a common cold, it’s important to have your doctor assess the gland to rule our more serious concerns, such as an injury, inflammation, parasites and cancer. Some of the most common causes of swollen lymph nodes situated in the neck specifically are:
• The common cold, measles, chickenpox, mono, and other common viruses as well as more serious conditions, such as herpes and HIV
• Strep, staph, cat scratch disease, tuberculosis, and other bacterial diseases as well as s@xually transmitted conditions, such as syphilis and chlamydia
• Histoplasmosis, coccidiomycosis, and other fungal diseases
• Toxoplasmosis and other parasitic infestations
• Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and a number of other inflammatory conditions
• Lung cancer, lymphomas, leukemia, and other cancers related to the lymphatic system
Recognize Swollen Lymph Nodes
There is no sure way to identify a lump in the neck as a swollen lymph node. However, you should regularly check your neck by using two to three fingers and applying gentle pressure along the sides, back and base of your neck. Swellings can appear in a variety of sizes, ranging from as small as a pea to as large as a cherry. It is important to understand that swollen glands are not always a sign of a disease. In many cases, a gland that is less than a centimeter and size may still be normal; however, if it swells, it may become double or triple the size it is normally. Additional signs that a disease or other medical concern is at play include:
• Warmth, inflammation, and redness at the site of the lymph node
• Unusual lumps
• Pain or tenderness when the lymph node is touched
• Concurrent infection symptoms, such as a sore throat, sores in the mouth, fatigue, coughing, runny nose, sweating, chills, and/or a fever
Treatment for Inflamed Glands
In some cases the glands may return to normal size without treatment, but in other cases effective treatment is required. The exact treatment approach depends on the cause of the symptom. For example, if cancer is suspected, your doctor will perform a biopsy of the lymph node to help confirm the diagnosis. If the issue is a viral or bacterial infection, medication will be prescribed. Additionally, other holistic or natural remedies may be applied to effectively treat the condition in many cases.
• Homeopathic medicine: Homeopathic remedies can be applied to treat swollen lymph glands. Mercurious solubilis, kali muriaticum, and other treatments as well as homeopathic tincture can help drain the lymphatic system and stimulate an appropriate immune response.
• Herbal treatments: Herbal remedies may also be applied to treat the condition. Garlic is one of the most well-known natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial treatments. It will help reduce inflammation and support regular immune function. Other herbal remedies that should help include Echinacea, licorice root, turmeric, ginger, goldenseal, colloidal silver, cleavers, and more.
• Nutritional supplements: Vitamins and minerals can also support the immune system and restore lymphatic function. Vitamin A, vitamin C, zinc, selenium, vitamin D3, fish oil, and probiotics are all effective remedies depending on the cause of the inflammation.
If you have recently completed a self-exam or have simply run your hand over your neck or behind your ear and discovered a lump, it’s likely that a swollen lymph node is the cause. While the issue might be minor, it is important to consult your doctor, as the inflammation could be linked to more aggressive concerns, such as a bacterial infection, parasites and cancer.