swollen lymph nodes in neck

Lymph nodes are one of the most important structures in our bodies. Everyone experiences swollen lymph nodes at some point in time. This is because lymph nodes are made to filter all the germs and impurities from the body. When lymph nodes trap viruses or harmful bacteria and try to damage them with the lymphocytes, that’s when they become swollen.

However, swollen lymph nodes may also mean a sign of cancer like lymphoma (blood cancer). But swollen lymph could also indicate an infection rather than a sign of lymphoma. In this article, you will learn the causes of swollen lymph nodes in the neck, the symptoms as well as treatment.

What are Lymph Nodes in Neck?

Lymph nodes are round or bean-shaped body structures that are very small and found all over the body. These structures help with immunity and make immune cells by finding and getting rid of the germs that cause illness. 

You can feel the lymph nodes in some areas of your body like the neck, armpits, groin, under the chin and jaw, behind ears, etc. Generally, there are hundreds of lymph nodes in your body and when they become larger than their usual size, they are termed as swollen lymph nodes.

Enlarged lymph nodes in neck are the swollen structures you notice while touching areas of your neck. They can be sore or tender if you press on them. They usually remove anything that may harm your body if it stays in there for a long time. 

Enlarged lymph nodes can affect anyone, whether children or adults. This swelling is normally temporary and not harmful. It means that the body is fighting an infection such as a cold or strep throat. However, at times, the swollen lymph nodes may also imply a serious condition, but in rare cases. Seeking help from the health care provider in case of swollen lymph nodes is helpful. 

Symptoms of Swollen Lymph Nodes in Neck

Typically, lymph nodes don’t cause symptoms, but rather, they show signs of an underlying condition. When they become enlarged, it means the body is fighting infections. 

The most common lymph nodes symptoms are:

  • Visible swelling: You will notice a lump or a swelling in your neck region or other affected areas like groin, armpits, etc. The enlarged lymph nodes can, at times, be felt under the skin.

  • Tenderness: When you touch the swollen area, you may feel it is painful or tender, especially if they’re inflamed because of an infection.

  • Fever: Infections that make the lymph node swell can lead to fever since the immune system of the body is responding to the infection.

  • Redness on the affected area: The skin on the swollen lymph nodes will appear red or feel very warm to the touch. This is an indicator of inflammation.

  • Sore throat: One common lymph node symptom in the neck is sore throat. As the body fights the infection like bacteria, the lymph nodes will become swollen and very tender as they help the immune system combat the illness. The swollen lymph nodes in neck are associated with throat infections like strep throat, like the common cold.

  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing: The enlarged lymph nodes in neck can also cause discomfort or have a difficult time swallowing anything if they press on the structures.
Remember, swollen lymph nodes imply that the immune system of the body is responding to an underlying problem. However, if you see unexplained or persistent swelling, or you've other lymph node symptoms like weight loss, seek medical attention immediately for proper diagnosis.

Causes of Enlarged Lymph Nodes

Many conditions can cause the lymph nodes to swell in the neck. Some possible lymph nodes causes include;

  • Infections

This is a common cause of lymph nodes swelling. If an infection occurs in your body, the place where these nodes are will be filled with white blood cells. These cells will then begin destroying pathogens that are responsible for infection. When the white blood cells accumulate, the lymph nodes will swell. 

Common infections which might cause swollen lymph nodes in neck are common cold, ear infections, strep throat, sore throat, dental infections, coughing, fever, etc. The lymph nodes that get swollen because of an infection can be painful, especially when you touch them. Normally, they will return to their normal size after an infection clears.

  • HIV

Enlarged lymph nodes are quite common in the acute stage of HIV. At this early stage, the body will start fighting the infection. Research shows that the viruses will reach the nearby lymph nodes in about 5 days after the infection. Symptoms will start being noticed within a month utmost with the swelling of lymph nodes being the first sign. 

  • Cancer

Sometimes, swollen cervical lymph nodes can be caused by cancer. Leukemia, lymphoma that has spread to most of your body parts, will make the lymph nodes enlarge.

Lymphoma commonly appears in the neck and mostly affects young adults. Also, swollen chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a blood cancer, can result in swollen lymph nodes in neck. 

  • Side Effects of Medications

Though, in rare cases, swollen lymph nodes can also occur due to medication side effects. The swelling can develop in places of the nodes, like cervical lymph nodes. The toxins found in the medication will make the lymph nodes swell a lot. 

These are just common lymph nodes causes that may result in swelling around your neck. If you’ve got a persistent or unexplained swelling of lymph nodes in the neck, it is crucial to see the healthcare provider to get a proper diagnosis.

"ALSO READ: 10 Common Foods That Cause Constipation"

Swollen Lymph Nodes Treatment

If you are experiencing mild swelling, one of the options you can try out to manage the problem directly or indirectly is the use of a warm and wet washcloth to compress the place where the swelling is. This will help reduce the discomfort and swelling.

Apart from using the warm compresses, you can also rest to give the body time to recover, which will help in getting plenty of rest. This way, you will be able to manage the swollen lymph nodes.

If the swelling is persistent and is accompanied by other symptoms like night sweats, weight loss, fever, or difficulty breathing, seek professional help from your doctor for the best lymph nodes Treatment. 


The swelling of lymph nodes is very common and is to be expected because viruses or bacteria are usually filtered in the lymphatic system to aid in fighting infections. In rare cases, you will find the swollen lymph nodes pinpointing to a serious condition like leukemia. But, if you are experiencing swollen lymph nodes in neck and you are concerned, it is best to talk with the doctor.


Q1. When should I worry about swollen lymph?

Ans: Swollen lymph nodes normally go away in one or two weeks. It’s concerning if it persists longer, doesn’t move when pressed, or is hard.

Q2. Does painful lymph nodes mean cancer?

Ans:Painful lymph nodes don’t mean a person has cancer. They swell due to other conditions like cough, fever, or sore throat.

Q3. Can stress cause lymph nodes to swell?

Ans:Stress can weaken your immune system, thus making it more susceptible to infections. This may result in swollen lymph nodes.