Every year when the calendar shifts to December, every sneeze and sniffle is a cause for concern. It’s because of COVID-19, the flu, and the common cold. All of them can have similar symptoms. Another sign that can be seen in a myriad of ailments? Swollen glands, particularly in the neck.

To clarify the swollen glands don’t actually belong to glands. They’re actually lymph nodes. They’re part of the lymphatic system and help in the fight against illnesses and other conditions. Swollen glands are an indication, can be an advantage, as they are a sign that your body is fighting something that it isn’t happy about.

Doctors discuss what happens to your body after the glands of your neck begin to swell and how the glands can feel swollen and what you can do to improve your symptoms immediately.

What are the neck glands? And how can you tell if they’re inflamed?

Swollen neck glands aren’t actually lymph nodes, they’re just glands and lymph nodes that have swollen are known as lymphadenopathy by doctors.

Lymph nodes, as a whole, are an important part of your body’s immune system since they aid your immune system to recognize and combat bacteria as well as other foreign substances. They are also a source of toxins. Cleveland Clinic estimates that a person’s body contains around 600 lymph nodes that are located in the chest, jaws, and belly, arms, and legs. However, not all the lymph nodes are touched; as per MedlinePlus, the US National Library of Medicine (MedlinePlus) the armpit, groyne, and neck are the most common places for lymph nodes that can be touched with fingers.

As per the Cleveland Clinic, lymph nodes typically are sizeable as beans or peas however, when they’re enlarged they can expand and cause discomfort to the area they’re located, most typically, in the neck. Amy Zack, MD, is a physician with a specialization in general medical conditions.

What is the cause of swelling in the neck glands?

Based on Sterling Ransone, MD, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians swelling lymph nodes in the neck indicate that they’re trying to shield you. He says, “They’re capturing the nasty people, our immune system is devouring them.” Based on Cleveland Clinic Cleveland Clinic, the swelling is due to the addition of blood cells being brought to the area to fight infections.

The lymph nodes that are swelling in the neck are likely to indicate an illness, according to Dr. Zack. Dr. Zack continues, “This is fairly frequent in the upper respiratory viruses.” “This will be your body’s immunity fighting the virus.”

As per the Cleveland Clinic, enlarged lymph nodes on the neck may be a sign of diseases listed below as well as the upper respiratory cold virus which are the main reason for swollen glands.

  • Influenza and colds
  • Strep in the Throat
  • Sinusitis is an infection that can affect the sinuses.
  • Skin wounds
  • Mononucleosis

The swelling of lymph nodes may be a sign of cancer, specifically lymphoma which is cancer that is affecting the lymphatic system (where the lymph nodes are situated) According to Cleveland Clinic. The swelling of lymph nodes could be caused by transmissible sexually, and autoimmune diseases In these instances there will be swelling of lymph nodes throughout your body instead of being restricted to one specific area, such as your neck.

Are swollen glands on the neck area be managed at home, and when do you need to consult your doctor?

Since swollen lymph nodes can be a manifestation of a cold, or another health issue, the best approach to deal with them is to take a break until the symptoms go away. “The symptoms will decrease as time passes and with the elimination of the viral infection or the underlying cause of edoema” Dr. Zack explains.

There are ways to decrease swelling by using prescription medications like ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) that are prescribed to treat inflammation and pain. But, you must consult your physician prior to using any medication either prescription or over the counter to ensure you’re on the right track and won’t need any further therapy.

However, since swelling of lymph nodes can signal a more serious issue, it’s best to talk to an experienced physician in such instances. “If lymph nodes located in the neck become enlarged for longer than 7-10 days and there aren’t signs of a cold virus or another infection, such as strep throat, it’s important to consult an experienced physician about why this might be the case,” Dr. Zack states, adding that “it is advised to consult a physician immediately if a particular area appears to be significantly larger than others, very painful, or is causing any difficulties swallowing or breathing.”

The Cleveland Clinic advises that if there are lymph nodes that have grown larger and lymph nodes, you should check them for the following signs:

  • Lymph nodes having diameters of more than 1 inch
  • Painful, hard or rapidly expanding lymph nodes
  • The process of removing pus or other fluids from lymph nodes
  • Fat loss, fever night sweats, or exhaustion are all examples of common symptoms.
  • Lymph nodes are swelling at the collarbone, or in the neck’s lower part.
  • The lymph nodes that surround them are irritation or red skin.

If you are in any one of the situations doctors will likely perform additional tests, including imaging scans, blood tests, or perhaps a biopsy, in order to determine the root of the issue.

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