The causes of lymphatic swelling will depend on where in the lymphatic system the swelling is occurring. One of the most common types of lymphatic swelling refers to swollen glands or lymph nodes. This is caused by the accumulation of white blood cells inside of the glands as they attempt to fight off some type of infection. Occasionally lymphatic swelling can be caused by lymphedema, liver disease, or cancer.
Most commonly, the swelling is confined to the lymph nodes and it is generally caused by an infection somewhere in the body. In the majority of these cases, the swelling involves the nodes closest to the site of the infection. For instance, a sinus infection may result in swollen nodes in the neck region. This swelling is generally temporary and subsides when the infection is healed, although sometimes a lymph node will remain swollen for several days or even weeks.
Lymph node swelling should not increase over time once the initial infection is over. This could be a sign of lymphoma, which is a type of cancer of the lymph nodes. Swollen lymph nodes in more than one area of the body can also be the result of cancer or sometimes it can signal a widespread infection that should be treated by a medical professional.
Lymphedema can also cause swelling. This is a condition which causes mild to severe swelling or water retention in the arms or legs. It is generally caused by damage to the lymph nodes closest to the affected extremity. Treatment may include wrapping the limb, drainage, and avoiding infection and injury to the area.
Occasionally lymphatic swelling can be found internally. The liver is part of the lymphatic system and may swell if it is diseased in some way. Potential causes for liver disease can vary widely, so treatments are also varied. Alcoholism, hepatitis, and taking prescription or over the counter drugs can all contribute to liver disease.
Cancer is another potential cause of lymphatic swelling. Malignant cells can occur in virtually any area of the body, and it can sometimes infect the lymph nodes or liver. Lymphoma is the most common type of cancer which affects the lymphatic system. Survival for this type of cancer is probable when it is detect early and treated right away. Warning signs include severe swelling in one or more lymph nodes that does not subside and that is not related to an infection.