Our lymph nodes are small ‘pouches’ which collect and drain the lymph fluid that travels through our system in order to help keep tissue firm and remove toxins. These pouches are aimed at helping to drain this fluid after our body has finished with it, but occasionally they can become swollen and enlarged when they get clogged.
If you have a suspect lump under your armpit that isn’t a spot, boil, cyst, bite or ingrowing hair, then this is a possible explanation.
What Causes Lymph Nodes to Swell Up?
Normally our lymph nodes will safely and easily eliminate the toxins and bacteria from our body. However if they should become infected, then this can cause them to swell and become clogged. This can be a viral, fungal or bacterial infection, and of course they are relatively prone to infection as they are so regularly in contact with bacteria. At the same time the location means that the area is often warm and moist – perfect conditions for bacteria looking to set up shop.
Infection however is not the only cause of swollen lymph nodes. Other causes include vaccinations, allergic reactions or pressure from breast tissue. In rare cases a build-up of cancer cells in the lymph nodes can cause cancer to begin to grow there.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Other symptoms that you may encounter include redness and discomfort, though this won’t always be present. Usually lymph nodes will recover on their own given time once they have flushed out the infection or the allergen.
If the lymph node does not recover on its own, or if there is a risk of cancer, then it is important to see a health care professional to ascertain the cause of the swelling. They may use a X-Ray, CT scan, or biopsy in order to rule out the possibility of cancer. Otherwise in the case of certain infections antibiotics may be prescribed.
In most cases the recommended course of treatment for swollen lymph nodes is simply to wait until the problem subsides. Meanwhile however you can treat the discomfort by applying warm compresses such as a flannel that you’ve run under hot water. You might also wish to use over the counter analgesics if there is significant discomfort.
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