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Chronic Lymphadenitis

(Lymph Node Infection; Lymph Gland Infection; Lymph Node Inflammation; Lymph Gland Inflammation)

Definition

Chronic lymphadenitis is inflammation or infection of a lymph node for an extended time. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system. This system fights and prevents infections. The lymph node’s job is to filter out unwanted substances, such as bacteria and viruses, and help eliminate them from the body.

Lymph nodes occur in clusters in the neck, armpits, and groin. Chronic lymphadenitis may affect one node, several nodes in one area, or nodes in many areas of the body.

Swollen Lymph Nodes

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Causes    TOP

Lymph nodes normally swell when fighting off an infection. In cases of more serious infection, the swelling may be prolonged. Lymphadenitis is usually caused by an infection that has spread to the lymph nodes from a skin, ear, nose, or eye infection. Other causes of lymphadenitis include:

  • Infection with streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria
  • Tonsillitis
  • HIV infection
  • Genital herpes
  • Mononucleosis
  • Juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
  • Leukemia or lymphoma
  • Sickle cell anemia
  • Kawasaki disease

Risk Factors    TOP

Chronic lymphadenitis is more common in children younger than 12 years of age. Factors that may increase your chance of developing chronic lymphadenitis include:

  • Having one of the causes of lymphadenitis
  • Close contact with someone who has one of the causes of lymphadenitis
  • Contact with animals, specifically cats, rats, or cows

Symptoms    TOP

Symptoms include:

  • Swollen, painful, tender, or hard lymph nodes/glands
  • The skin over a node is red and warm to the touch
  • Fever with the following symptoms:
    • Chills
    • Loss of appetite
    • Heavy perspiration
    • Rapid pulse
    • General weakness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Neck stiffness

Diagnosis    TOP

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Testing may include:

Treatment    TOP

The sooner chronic lymphadenitis is treated, the more favorable the outcome, depending on the cause. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor right away.

Treatment of chronic lymphadenitis depends on the cause. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

Medications may be prescribed, such as:

  • Antibiotics to control infection.
  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to help reduce inflammation and swelling. Aspirin may be recommended for adults.
    • Note : Aspirin can cause serious complications in some children with certain infections. It is best to avoid aspirin or aspirin products for children with infections.
  • Other treatments specific to the diagnosis.

Supportive Care

Hot, moist compresses on the lymph nodes can help relieve pain.

Surgery    TOP

Surgery may be necessary to drain pockets of pus if they occur.

Prevention    TOP

To help reduce the chances of chronic lymphadenitis:

  • Seek prompt treatment for bacterial and viral infections. Contact your doctor at the first signs of infection.
  • Take steps to prevent getting an infection:
    • Practice good hygiene practices such as washing your hands regularly.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Eat a healthful diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

RESOURCES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

References:

Lymphadenitis. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/infectious_diseases/lymphadenitis_134,80. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Lymphadenopathy. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116501/Lymphadenopathy. Updated December 14, 2016. Accessed March 26, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated: 5/1/2014

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