Prevention & Risk Assessment
What causes lymphadenopathy?
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system and functions to fight disease and infections. As infection-fighting cells and fluid accumulate, the lymph nodes enlarge to many times their normal size. Nearly all children will develop lymphadenopathy at some time, as the condition commonly occurs in response to an infection from a virus, such as an upper respiratory infection. Bacterial infections, such as strep throat caused by the streptococcus bacterium, can also cause lymphadenopathy.
Since enlarged lymph nodes are often near the source of infection, their location can help determine the cause. For example, an infant with a scalp infection may have enlarged lymph nodes at the back of the neck. Swollen lymph nodes around the jaw may be due to an infection in the teeth or mouth. However, the lymphadenopathy may be generalized, with lymph node enlargement in more than one area, which is typical of a viral illness.
Sometimes, the lymph nodes themselves can become inflamed and enlarged, a condition called lymphadenitis. Lymph nodes can also enlarge due to cancer in the lymphatic system, such as Hodgkin disease.
What are the symptoms of lymphadenopathy?
In children, it is normal to be able to feel some lymph nodes as small, movable lumps under the skin. However, if the nodes become more enlarged than usual, there may be an underlying problem. The following are the most common symptoms of lymphadenopathy. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
- Swollen, enlarged lumps in the neck, back of the head, or other locations of lymph nodes
- Tenderness of the nodes, although the nodes may not be painful if the child is no longer ill
- Warmth or redness of the skin over the lymph nodes
- History of illness
The symptoms of lymphadenopathy may resemble other neck masses or medical problems. Always consult your child's doctor for a diagnosis.