What is lymphadenitis?

Lymphadenitis is an inflammation of the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes, also called lymph glands, are part of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system, and the lymph nodes produce cells that help the body fight infections.

Blood/Lymph Disorder Spotlight

Inflammation of the lymph nodes can arise due to infections or to non-infectious causes. Infectious causes of lymphadenitis include both viral infections, such as HIV or upper respiratory viruses, and bacterial infections. Less commonly, fungal or parasitic infections can cause inflammation of the lymph nodes. The most common bacterial causes of lymphadenitis are Staphylococcus (staph) or Streptococcus (strep) infections. Tuberculosis (serious infection affecting the lungs and other organs) is another bacterial infection that may also cause lymphadenitis. Lymphadenitis can also arise in the presence of cancer within the lymph nodes, either a primary lymph node cancer (lymphoma) or a metastatic tumor from elsewhere in the body.

In lymphadenitis, the nodes will swell near the site of an underlying infection, inflammation or tumor. Symptoms of lymphadenitis include hard, swollen or tender lymph nodes. In general, if the nodes are hard and immovable, cancer may be a possible cause, but most cases of enlarged lymph nodes do not represent cancer. Nodes that are softer and more pliable most likely result from an infectious or benign process.

Lymphadenitis can be the result of diseases that are contagious and can be transmitted from person to person.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as hard, swollen or tender lymph nodes. These symptoms may be combined with difficulty breathing, high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), skin infection or abscess, and rapid heart rate (tachycardia). Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for lymphadenitis, but mild symptoms recur or persist.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of lymphadenitis?

The main symptom of lymphadenitis is swelling accompanied by tender skin on or around the inflamed lymph node. Enlargement of the lymph nodes is known as lymphadenopathy. Lymphadenitis may also be painless, depending on the underlying cause.... Read more about lymphadenitissymptoms

CAUSES

What causes lymphadenitis?

Lymphadenitis may be caused by infection or inflammation that occurs with tumors or other conditions.... Read more about lymphadenitiscauses

TREATMENTS

How is lymphadenitis treated?

Lymphadenitis is sometimes due to conditions that are contagious and can be transmitted from person to person. Treatment is dependent upon the underlying cause of lymphadenitis.... Read more about lymphadenitistreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Allergies and the Immune System