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What is lymphadenopathy?

Lymphadenopathy is swelling of your lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are small organs that are part of your immune system. Lymph nodes are found throughout your body. They are most easily felt in your neck, under your arms, and near your groin. Lymphadenopathy can occur in one or more areas of your body.

What causes lymphadenopathy?

Lymphadenopathy is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Other causes include medicine or vaccine allergies, cancer, and diseases that affect tissue that supports, binds, and protects organs.

What are the signs and symptoms of lymphadenopathy?

You may have no symptoms, or you may have any of the following:

  • A painful, warm, or red lump under your skin
  • More tiredness than usual
  • Skin rash
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Enlarged spleen (organ that filters blood)
  • Fever or night sweats

How is lymphadenopathy diagnosed?

Your caregiver will check your lymph node for its size and location. You may need the following tests to help caregivers find the cause of your lymphadenopathy:

  • Blood tests may show if you have an infection or other medical condition.
  • A chest x-ray is a picture that helps caregivers check your lung and heart function.
  • An ultrasound uses sound waves to show pictures of the lymph nodes on a monitor.
  • A CT scan is also called a CAT scan. An x-ray machine uses a computer to take pictures of your lymph nodes. You may be given a dye before the pictures are taken to help caregivers see the pictures better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • An MRI uses powerful magnets and a computer to take pictures of your lymph nodes. You may be given dye to help the pictures show up better. Tell the caregiver if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the caregiver if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A lymph node biopsy is a procedure used to remove a sample of tissue to be tested. Caregivers may remove lymph cells through a needle or remove one or more lymph nodes during surgery.

How is lymphadenopathy treated?

Your symptoms may go away without treatment. Your caregiver may need to treat the problem that has caused the lymph nodes to swell. Medicines may be given for infections, cancer, or other causes of your lymphadenopathy.

When should I contact my caregiver?

Contact your caregiver if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have a new swollen and painful lymph node.
  • You have a skin rash.
  • Your lymph node remains swollen or painful, or it gets bigger.
  • Your lymph node has red streaks around it, or the skin around the lymph node is red.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • The swollen lymph nodes bleed.
  • The swollen lymph nodes in your neck affect your breathing or swallowing.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.