What are Lymph Nodes and What do They Do?
A lymph node is a small circular ball shaped organ, which is a part of the immune system. These lymph nodes are located throughout the body and are lined by the lymphatic vessels. The lymph node locations are the neck, axillae, groins and para-aortic region. They are said to be the filters of the body. They trap foreign particles, which have entered the immune system. These nodes also fight off harmful bacteria and have clinical significance. The lymph nodes become inflamed or enlarged due to various reasons, ranging from the trivial throat infection to the life-threatening cancer. The lymph nodes have an important role to play in detecting the cancer stages. It helps to decide the treatment to be given to the patient and also for determining the prognosis. Biopsy may also be used to diagnose the lymph nodes, when they are inflamed. There are certain diseases, which affect the lymph nodes with characteristic consistency and location.
What are the two Major Functions of the Lymph Nodes
We have just read about lymph nodes locations, functions is what we will read now. The lymph nodes have two major functions. The phagocytic cells behave as filters for particulate matter and micro organisms in the body. It is through the lymph nodes, that antigens are presented to the immune system of the body. The other function of the lymph nodes is to serve as a site for the final stages of malnutrition for some types of lymphocytes and monocytes, which have migrated from the bone marrow.
What Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes
Now that we know, what are lymph nodes location and functions, we will see what are the causes of swollen lymph nodes. There are several reasons, which can give rise to enlarged lymph nodes in the body. Normally, swelling of the lymph nodes can occur, even if the infection is minor or it may not even be prominent. The swelling often times results from localized infection, which is limited to only one certain part of the body. One of the first cause of swollen lymph nodes is infection. When the lymph nodes are infected, there is an increase in the number of white blood cells in the body. Which multiply rapidly in response to stimulation with a foreign body. This causes the lymph nodes to swell.
After infection, virus is one of the causes of swollen lymph nodes. Swelling of the lymph nodes is an immune reaction to a generalized infection in the body to several infections, such as viral infections, which can occur, due to trivial reason like common cold or due to serious reason such as HIV infection. When the swelling occurs, all of a sudden and there are painful lymph nodes, it is often caused due to either a viral infection or a bacterial infection.
When there is infiltration with the inflammatory cells during infection or inflammation in the region of the lymph nodes, it results in the swelling of the lymph node. When there is infiltration with malignant cells, which are brought to the node with the lymph, that flows from an area affected with certain type of cancer, it causes swollen lymph nodes. In case of cancer of the blood or leukemia, there is uncontrolled multiplication of malignant lymphocytes, which affects the lymph nodes giving rise to swollen lymph nodes. When the swelling of the lymph nodes is painless and gradual, it is often times caused, due to tumor.
When there is swelling in the neck, which also spreads well into the jaw, this is an indicator of mumps. Along with the above mentioned symptoms, if there is rash as well, then it is caused due to scarlet fever. Swelling of the lymph nodes can also be caused due to ear infections, colds or even small cuts.
Lymph nodes, in one line, are the defense mechanism of the body against any foreign body. In case, if you are suffering from swollen lymph nodes, it is important to visit your health care professional, so that he is able to dignose the cause of the problem.