What causes swollen glands in the neck? Are they a reason for concern? What should you do if you notice that your glands are swollen? Depending on the nature of this symptom, whether it develops over time or quickly, swollen glands in the neck may or may not be a sign of a serious health condition. Depending on other signs and symptoms, it may be a good idea to see your doctor.
Lymph Nodes Swollen glands in the neck are actually swollen lymph nodes. There are lymph nodes located throughout the body. Not only are they found in the neck, but also the armpits, groin, under the chin, behind the ears and on the back of the head. Lymph nodes are a part of the immune system, acting to protect the body against harmful substances.
Infections In many cases the lymph nodes in the neck become swollen because of an infection. It may be a minor infection, such as the common cold or an ear infection, but more serious infections such as an tuberculosis, the flu, mononucleosis and even sexually transmitted diseases can cause swollen glands. Usually if this symptom is due to an infection the swelling happens quickly and may even be painful.
Serious Disease Aside from an infection, there are more serious health conditions that may be the cause of swollen glands in the neck. Disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and HIV can lead to this symptom. When the swelling develops gradually, it is possible that a cancerous tumor may be forming.
Other Causes Aside from an infection or chronic illness, swollen glands can also be a side effect of some medications and vaccinations. An injury can also cause this reaction.
Treatment Often swollen glands in the neck clear up on their own as the body overcomes an infection. Home remedies such as ginger tea, garlic and echinacea can help in mild cases. A doctor may use antibiotics to treat an infection, thereby relieving the symptom.
Medical Attention If an infection may be serious, if there are other symptoms present that are severe, if the nodes appear to continue to swell even after several weeks or if they feel hard you should seek medical attention. Often swollen glands are nothing to worry about, but some infections require the use of antibiotics to be treated. Swollen lymph nodes can also be a sign of a serious health problem such as cancer; when in doubt, see your doctor to rule out a serious health concern.