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Lymphadenitis - Causes, Symptoms, Types, Risk, Diagnosis and Treatment

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Lymphadenitis - Causes, Symptoms, Types, Risk, Diagnosis and Treatment

4 min read


Lymphadenitis is the inflammation of the lymph nodes that can be due to some related condition. Read the article to learn more.

Written by

Dr. Preetha. J

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Radha Peruvemba Hariharan

Published At March 17, 2022
Reviewed AtApril 26, 2024

What Is Lymphadenitis?

Lymphadenitis is the inflammation of the lymph nodes, which causes swelling and tenderness of the lymph nodes. A lymph node is part of the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. These produce cells that help the body fight infections. Humans usually have 600 lymph nodes in their bodies. Lymph nodes can generally be felt near your jaw, in the groin area, and under your arm. A lymph node can be soft and small, which, once infected, can increase in size. In lymphadenitis, the lymph nodes will swell near the infection, tumor, or inflammation site. If the nodes are swollen, hard, and immovable, the most common cause can be cancer, and if the nodes are pliable and soft, it can be due to a benign or infectious process.

What Could Cause Lymphadenitis?

Inflammation of the lymph nodes can be caused by infections or noninfectious causes. Lymphadenitis infection can be viral, like upper respiratory infection or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and bacterial infection. Fungal and parasitic infections can rarely cause lymphadenitis. The bacteria most commonly causing lymphadenitis are streptococcus and staphylococcus. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection caused by mycobacterium tuberculosis, which can also cause lymphadenitis. Lymphadenitis can also arise from cancer present within the lymph nodes, which can be the primary lymph node cancer or the metastatic tumor from other parts of the body. Lymphadenitis can also be caused by contagious diseases that can spread from one person to another.

Examples of the infectious causes of lymphadenitis are:

  • Parasitic infections.

  • HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

  • Tuberculosis.

  • Upper respiratory viruses.

  • Infectious mononucleosis.

  • Staphylococcus.

  • Streptococcus.

Examples of the non-infectious causes of lymphadenitis are:

  • Cancer of the lymph nodes is known as lymphoma.

  • Inflammation due to the reaction to a foreign body.

  • Secondary or metastatic cancer that spreads from another part of the body.

What Will Be the Symptoms of Lymphadenitis?

The most common symptom of lymphadenitis is swelling with tenderness in and around the lymph node. Enlargement of the lymph node is called lymphadenopathy. The other symptoms may include:

  • Swollen, hard, and tender lymph nodes.

  • Lump or mass left behind the skin.

  • Itchy skin.

  • Redness, swelling, and warmth.

  • Rashes.

The severe symptoms that denote a life-threatening condition are:

  • Breathlessness.

  • Rapid breathing or difficulty breathing.

  • High fever.

  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate).

  • Severe redness, pain, swelling, and warmth.

What Are the Types of Lymphadenitis?


There are two types of lymphadenitis they are:

  1. Localized Lymphadenitis - This is the most common type of lymphadenitis. It can usually affect one or a few of the lymph nodes near the area where the infection begins. For example, when the tonsils are involved, we can feel the lymph nodes near the neck.

  2. Generalized Lymphadenitis - This type of lymphadenitis will occur in two or more lymph nodes. It can be caused by an infection that spreads through the bloodstream or any other illness that affects the body.

What Are the Risk Factors for Lymphadenitis?

Frequent infection is the most common risk factor for lymphadenitis. The following conditions can also increase the risk of lymphadenitis:

  • Upper respiratory tract infection.

  • Earache, pain in the inner an douter ear, which can impact hearing.

  • Sore throat.

  • Coryza is a bacterial infection seen in chickens, which results in respiratory conditions.

  • Conjunctivitis is an inflammation or infection that affects the outer membrane of the eyeball.

  • Impetigo is a skin infection that results in red sores on the face.

  • Fever.

  • Irritability.

  • Anorexia is an eating disorder which makes the person to put on weight.

How to Diagnose Lymphadenitis?

Methods to diagnose lymphadenitis are:

  • Physical examination is done to rule out the inflamed lymph nodes' size, tenderness, pain, and location.

  • A blood test is to determine any infection.

  • The lymph node tissue or fluid sample is viewed under a microscope.

  • Fluid from the lymph node can be taken and cultured to determine the causative agent.

How to Prevent Lymphadenitis?

To prevent lymphadenitis:

  • Wash your hands regularly with hand wash or soap.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Maintain hygiene in areas where food is prepared.

  • Try to cleanse or use antiseptic on any breaks or scratches in your skin.

What Are the Complications of Lymphadenitis?

Most lymphadenitis can be resolved on its own. However, depending on the underlying cause, the swelling can remain for some time. If left untreated, the complications of lymphadenitis might be very serious, even life-threatening. They can cause complications like the spread of cancer and infection.

When to Seek Medical Help for Lymphadenitis?

Lymphadenitis, which is soft and pliable, can be caused by a benign or infectious process. It can result from contagious diseases that can be transmitted from person to person. Seek medical help when you have symptoms like swollen, hard, and tender lymph nodes.

How to Treat Lymphadenitis?

Lymphadenitis can be treated with medications or without medications. In most cases, we can bring the infection under control within three to four days, but in some cases, it may take weeks or months, and the period for recovery depends on the underlying cause. The antibiotics should be targeted at group A streptococcus and staphylococcus aureus. It includes a ten-day course of Amoxicillin and Clavulanate (Augmentin), oral Cephalexin (Keflex), and Clindamycin (Cleocin).

Treatment of Lymphadenitis With Medicine

  • Antibiotics can be given orally or by injection to treat the underlying infection.

  • Analgesics (painkillers) can be given to control pain.

  • Antiinflammatory drug to reduce inflammation and swelling.

  • Other drugs are given depending on the severity and the specific cause of the lymphadenitis.

Treatment of Lymphadenitis Without Medicine

  • Cold and moist compress will reduce the swelling.

  • Surgery to drain the abscess if necessary.


Lymphadenitis is a condition in which one or more lymph nodes become enlarged due to infection. These lymph nodes contain white blood cells that help fight infection. Lymphadenitis, when treated in the initial stages, has a very good prognosis. By maintaining good general health and hygiene, chances of infection and, thereby, lymphadenitis can be prevented.

Frequently Asked Questions


What Happens if Lymphadenitis Is Left Untreated?

Lymphadenitis is an inflammation of the lymph nodes due to any bacterial or viral infection. It reloves on its own; however, if left untreated, it leads to the following severe complications:
- Spread of infection to the bloodstream (sepsis).
- Cellulitis (bacterial skin infection).
- An abscess (pus) formation.
- Abnormal connection between the lymphadenitis to the outer skin (fistula).
- Spread of cancer.


Can Lymphadenitis Be Treated With Antibiotics?

Lymphadenitis causes swelling and redness of the skin over the lymph nodes. It is treated by administering antibiotics either orally or intravenously. It is effective against Streptococcus aureus and Streptococcus A species. Antibiotics like Amoxicillin, Clavulanate, Cephalexin, or Clindamycin are given for ten days to treat lymphadenitis.


When Does Lymphadenitis Go Away?

Lymphadenitis usually resolves quickly with antibiotic treatment. It is most commonly caused by an upper respiratory infection, which takes 10 to 14 days to clear up. Then the lymph node swelling subsides within three to four weeks with proper treatment, hydration, and complete rest. For a long-lasting swelling and infection, it is necessary to visit the physician for an appropriate diagnosis.


Is Lymphadenitis Caused by a Virus?

Lymphadenitis is the swelling of one or more lymph nodes caused by bacterial, viral, and rarely parasitic infections. It can arise due to non-infectious factors also. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and virus that cause upper respiratory infections predispose to lymphadenitis. The lymph node swelling reduces on treating the infection caused by viruses.


Is Lymphadenopathy a Serious Condition?

Lymph nodes are small clusters present all over the body, mainly in the armpits, neck, abdomen, and groin. It is a part of the lymphatic system that traps and filters bacteria and viruses that cause infections. Lymphadenopathy is the swelling of one or more lymph nodes due to any underlying infection. It is not a severe condition and gets resolved independently or with treatment. However, if more lymph nodes are involved, and if left untreated, it can lead to severe complications.


Can I Take Amoxicillin to Treat Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Bacterial or viral infections cause swollen lymph nodes, usually resolved without treatment. It is just a sign that the body's immune system is fighting against infections. Warm compresses are given to relieve the pain and swelling. Antibiotics like Amoxicillin are used to treat swollen lymph nodes caused by bacteria. In a viral infection, antibiotics do not work, requiring different treatments.


What Are the Characteristic Features of Cervical Lymphadenitis in Adults?

Cervical lymphadenitis refers to the infection of the lymph nodes in the neck region. It is usually caused by bacteria, tonsil infection, or virus that causes upper respiratory tract infections. It usually occurs in children of all ages and rarely affects adults. The adults with cervical lymphadenitis present with fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and soft and painful mass in the neck region. It is often treated with antibiotics. When the swollen lymph nodes do not resolve, a biopsy can help further diagnose.


Does Lymphadenitis Have a Good Prognosis?

Lymphadenitis has a good prognosis with appropriate treatment. The lymphadenitis caused by bacterial infections is treated with antibiotics. It usually resolves with a warm compress, over-the-counter pain medication, and increased fluid intake. The unresolved lymph node swelling rarely requires further diagnosis as it may lead to complications.


Who Is Most Affected by Lymphadenitis?

Lymphadenitis causes swelling and tenderness of lymph nodes. It can be focal (one lymph node) or generalized (all lymph nodes). Children are most commonly affected with lymphadenitis than adults. In children, lymphadenitis usually occurs after an upper respiratory infection. It causes redness, swelling, pain, and mild fever and is generally resolved with antibiotics, excess fluid intake, and rest.
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Dr. Radha Peruvemba Hariharan



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