Chronic Lymphadenitis
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Chronic Lymphadenitis

(Lymph Node Infection; Lymph Gland Infection; Lymph Node Inflammation; Lymph Gland Inflammation)

En Español (Spanish Version)

Definition

Chronic lymphadenitis is the inflammation of a lymph node. The inflammation can last for a prolonged period of time. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system. This system fights and prevents infections. The lymph node’s job is to filter out unwanted substances, such as bacteria and viruses, and help eliminate them from the body.

Lymph nodes occur in clusters in the neck, arm pits, and groin. Chronic lymphadenitis may affect one node, several nodes in one area (regional), or nodes in many areas of the body (general).

The sooner chronic lymphadenitis is treated, the more favorable the outcome. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor immediately.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Causes

Lymph nodes normally swell when fighting off an infection. In cases of more serious infection, the swelling may be prolonged. Lymphadenitis is usually caused by an infection that has spread to the lymph nodes from a skin, ear, nose, or eye infection. Other causes of lymphadenitis include the following:

Lymph node inflammation may also be caused by circulating cancer cells.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors increase your chances of developing chronic lymphadenitis. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • The conditions listed under “Causes”
  • Close contact with someone who has one of the conditions listed above
  • Age: 12 or younger; chronic lymphadenitis commonly occurs in children.
  • Contact with animals, specifically cats, rats, or cows

Symptoms

If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to chronic lymphadenitis. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

Symptoms include:

  • Swollen, painful, tender, or hard lymph nodes
  • The skin over a node is red and warm to the touch
  • Fever with the following symptoms:
    • Chills
    • Loss of appetite
    • Heavy perspiration
    • Rapid pulse
    • General weakness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Neck stiffness

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include the following:

  • White blood cell (WBC) count—WBCs help fight infection, so levels will be high if you have an infection.
  • Blood culture—testing of a sample of blood to look for bacteria or fungus
  • Biopsy of the lymph node—removal of a sample of lymph node tissue for testing
  • Ultrasound—a test that uses sound waves to examine your lymph nodes

Treatment

Treatment of chronic lymphadenitis depends on the cause. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

  • Antibiotics to control an infection
  • Anti-inflammatory medications—to help reduce inflammation and swelling; aspirin may be recommended for adults.
    • Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving a child aspirin.

Supportive Care

Hot, moist compresses on the lymph nodes can help relieve pain.

Surgery

Surgery may be necessary to drain abscesses (pockets of pus), if they occur.

Prevention

To help reduce your chances of getting chronic lymphadenitis, take the following steps:

  • Seek prompt treatment of bacterial and viral infections. Contact your doctor at the first signs of infection (fever, chills, redness).
  • Take steps to prevent getting an infection:
    • Practice good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Eat a healthful diet, one that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
http://www.cdc.gov/

National Institutes of Health
US National Library of Medicine
http://www.nlm.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

BC Health Guide
http://www.bchealthguide.org

Health Canada
http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/index_e.html

References:

Lymphadenitis. Dr. Joseph F. Smith Medical Library website. Available at: http://www.chclibrary.org/micromed/00055540.html . Accessed July 14, 2005.

Lymphadenitis. The Merck Manual of Medical Information, 2nd Home Edition Online. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mmhe/sec03/ch037/ch037c.html . Accessed July 14, 2005.

Lymphadenitis. The Merck Manual Online. Available at: http://www.merck.com/mrkshared/mmanual/section10/chapter112/112d.jsp . Accessed July 14, 2005.

Lymphadenitis and lymphangitis. University of Maryland Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/001301.htm . Accessed July 14, 2005.

Lymphadenitis and lymphangitis. US National Library of Medicine website. Available at: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001301.htm . Accessed July 14, 2005.

Swollen lymph glands (lymphadenitis). The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. Available at: http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/001301.htm . Accessed July 14, 2005.

The lymphatic system. American Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.medem.com/search/article_display.cfm?path=\\TANQUERAY\M_ContentItem&mstr=/M_ContentItem/ZZZG0S6CGJC.html&soc=AMA&srch_typ=NAV_SERCH . Accessed July 14, 2005.



Last reviewed January 2008 by Igor Puzanov, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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