What are the Inguinal Lymph Nodes?

Katriena Knights

Part of the complex lymphatic system that helps provide immunity to the human body, the inguinal lymph nodes are located in the groin area. These nodes can be either superficial or deep, and they lie in chains, carrying lymphatic fluid from the abdomen and groin area through the lymphatic system. The former are located along the crease of the groin near the inguinal ligament, a prominent ligament that helps protect and stabilize various abdominal organs. Deep lymph nodes, the largest of which is named Cloquet's node, can be found farther down the thigh, near the femoral artery.

The inguinal lymph nodes help drain fluid from the legs and feet.
The inguinal lymph nodes help drain fluid from the legs and feet.

Much like the cardiovascular system moves blood throughout the body to deliver oxygen to all of the individual body cells, the lymphatic system circulates lymph fluid throughout the body in order to help fight infection and disease and maintain overall immunity. With no central pump such as the heart, though, the lymphatic system relies on natural movement and muscular contractions to circulate this vital fluid. Areas drained by the inguinal lymph nodes include the genitalia, the buttocks, the lower wall of the abdomen, the feet, the legs and the anus, with fluid from these areas draining through the superficial nodes into the deep ones.

Unlike blood vessels, lymphatic vessels are capable of distributing fluid without any type of force.
Unlike blood vessels, lymphatic vessels are capable of distributing fluid without any type of force.

Inguinal lymph nodes, whether they are superficial or deep, are an important part of the lymphatic system. They were among the first lymph nodes to be discovered and were identified by Rufus of Ephesus during his anatomical studies of the first and second centuries A.D. Early study of the lymphatic system described the network itself fairly accurately but produced inaccurate theories regarding its function.

Inguinal lymph nodes are an important part of the lymphatic system.
Inguinal lymph nodes are an important part of the lymphatic system.

Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area can be indicative of infection, injury, or even cancerous growths in these areas. Groin injury, such as an inguinal hernia, which is more common in men than women, can lead to enlargement of the nodes as the body works to heal. In general, any groin pain or presence of enlarged lymph nodes in the area should be brought to the attention of a medical professional to determine the underlying cause.

Surgery may be required to treat an inguinal hernia.
Surgery may be required to treat an inguinal hernia.

Enlarged lymph nodes in the inguinal region can in some cases indicate the presence of cancer in the anus or vulva. They also can be related to metastasis of existing cancers. This is because the lymphatic system, though its function is to prevent infection and fight cancers, also carries cancerous cells to other parts of the body once it has entered the system.

Enlarged lymph nodes in the inguinal region can sometimes indicate the presence of cancer in the anus.
Enlarged lymph nodes in the inguinal region can sometimes indicate the presence of cancer in the anus.

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Discussion Comments

anon965754

Recently I have had surgery for an inguinal hernia. I don't know whether a hydrocele existed at that time and now I am anxious to know whether there is a possibility of a post operative hydrocele. Please let me know. -- Anil

HappyDay45

@SarahGrove – Early warning system is right! We have a friend who is alive today because he paid attention to the lymph nodes in his neck and jaw.

Luckily he went to his doctor right away when he noticed the swelling and tenderness. He was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes in his jaw.

He was very fortunate to have caught it in time. Especially since, like this article states, the lymph system often carries the cancer cells to other parts of the body.

SarahGrove

Inguinal lymph node swelling was the first symptom my cousin had when she became sick with the plague. The node swelled up within a day and she became really sick.

She was apparently bitten by an infected flea. She recovered after taking some antibiotics. Something they didn’t have in the Middle Ages millions of people died of the plague.

It seems like the lymph nodes are one of our body’s early warning systems and we need to pay attention when they become swollen and/or tender.

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