Lymph nodes are small glands found throughout the body that are responsible for helping to filter toxins from the body. Enlarged lymph nodes occur from infections or other medical conditions such inflammatory diseases or cancer. In most cases, swollen lymph nodes do not require specific medical treatment, although it is important to visit a doctor in order to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Once the reason for the enlarged lymph nodes is determined, the originating condition can be treated, often reducing the lymph node swelling.
Infections are the leading cause for enlarged lymph nodes. Bacterial infections, such as ear infections or tonsillitis, are common causes of swollen lymph nodes and are normally treated with antibiotics. Viral infections, including the common cold or HIV, may also lead to swollen lymph nodes. Antiviral medications may or may not be given, depending on the type of viral infection present.
Certain medical conditions that cause inflammation throughout the body may increase the chances of developing enlarged lymph nodes. These conditions often include lupus or arthritis. Intestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease, diverticulitis, or irritable bowel syndrome are also known to cause widespread inflammation. Prescription medications designed to reduce inflammation may also reduce swelling of the lymph nodes.
Some forms of cancer frequently cause enlarged lymph nodes, particularly lymphoma or leukemia. If other sources of the lymph node swelling cannot be found, blood tests may be performed to confirm the presence of these cancers. Treatment for these conditions may include the use of prescription medications, chemotherapy, or surgery.
After the cause of the enlarged lymph nodes is diagnosed, there may be a few home treatments that will help reduce some of the discomfort associated with the swelling of the lymph nodes. A warm compress, such as a heating pad, applied to the affected area for 15 or 20 minutes at a time, several times per day, may help to reduce pain and swelling. Some people find it helpful to gently massage the swollen lymph nodes. Drinking hot tea with a little honey may help to reduce inflammation, thus easing some of the symptoms.
If medical treatment is necessary, the most commonly prescribed medication is an antibiotic, although this treatment method is helpful only if there is an infection present. Anti-inflammatory medications may also help to reduce some of the symptoms. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis is of major importance so that the originating condition can be properly treated.