Tender Lymph Nodes
Lymph node tenderness is a common health issue that occurs in response to infection, inflammation and systemic disease. When tender lymph nodes become enlarged, some people fear that they may have cancer, but enlargement is usually only a temporary sign of immune response. Here's a closer look at what can cause lymph node tenderness and enlargement in different areas of the body.
Normal Lymphatic Function
The lymphatic system is an important part of the body's immune system; it delivers lymph, including white blood cells, through the body's network of lymph nodes and vessels. When viral or bacterial infections occur, lymph nodes can swell and can become tender as they respond to the body's need for immune action. Inflammation related to injury or arthritis can also cause a lymph response. For example, a link exists between fibromyalgia and lymph node enlargement. Lymph nodes also respond to cancer, affecting localized tissues or blood throughout the body.
Causes of Enlarged Lymph Nodes
The reasons for lymph node symptoms vary depending on the location of swelling and tenderness. When patients have tender lymph nodes in neck areas, the culprit may be a sinus infection, ear infection or upper respiratory cold. Enlarged lymph nodes in neck regions can also be caused by seasonal allergies. Tender groin lymph nodes are often related to sexually transmitted diseases or infections in the legs or feet. Axillary lymph nodes, located under the armpits, may be caused by infections in the lungs or other organs, or may be caused by injuries on the arms or hands. Local and systemic diseases, including cancer, can also affect other clusters of lymph nodes located throughout the body.
Signs of Cancerous Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes often cause concerns about cancer as they swell and form masses under the skin. While most cases of lymph node tenderness and swelling are due to temporary immune threats, certain signs may indicate a risk of cancer. In lymphoma, the lymph nodes usually swell slowly and painlessly. Cancerous lymph nodes may also grow together and form matted clusters. Lymphoma symptoms can be vague, but many patients also experience night sweats, weight loss, fever and fatigue as the cancer develops. When detected early, lymphoma usually responds to conventional therapies, so patients should speak with a doctor when they notice the above symptoms.
Lymph node swelling and tenderness is usually related to routine infections and inflammation. However, it can also represent chronic or severe disease states. Patients who suffer from long-term lymph node swelling should speak to a doctor to rule out cancer and other serious medical problems.