What are swollen glands?

Swollen glands, known medically as lymphadenopathy, may be felt under the chin or in the neck, armpits or groin, where they can be found in larger clumps.

Swollen glands are a sign the body that is fighting an infection. They usually get better by themselves in 2 to 3 weeks.

Lymph glands (also called lymph nodes) are pea-sized lumps of tissue that contain white blood cells. These help to fight bacteria, viruses and anything else that causes infection. They are an important part of the immune system and are found throughout the body.

How common are swollen glands?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of swollen glands?

The symptom of swollen glands is that the glands swell to more than a few centimetres in response to infection or disease.

When should I see my doctor?

You should contact your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • They haven’t gone down within a few weeks or are getting bigger.
  • They feel hard or don’t move when you press them.
  • You also have a sore throat and find it difficult to swallow or breathe.
  • You also have unexplained weight loss, night sweats or a persistent high temperature (fever).
  • You don’t have an obvious infection and don’t feel unwell.



What causes swollen glands?

Swollen glands are usually caused by a relatively minor viral or bacterial infection, including:

  • A cold
  • Tonsillitis
  • Glandular fever
  • A throat infection
  • An ear infection
  • A dental abscess
  • cellulitis (a skin infection)

The glands in the affected area will often become suddenly tender or painful. You may also have additional symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough, or fever.

Less often, swollen glands may be the result of:

  • Rubella – a viral infection that causes a red-pink skin rash made up of small spots
  • Measles – a highly infectious viral illness that causes distinctive red or brown spots on the skin
  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – a common virus spread through bodily fluids, such as saliva and urine
  • Tuberculosis (TB) – a bacterial infection spread that causes a persistent cough
  • Syphilis – a bacterial infection usually caught by having sex with someone who is infected
  • Cat scratch disease – a bacterial infection caused by a scratch from an infected cat
  • HIV – a virus that attacks the immune system and weakens your ability to fight infections
  • Lupus – where the immune system starts to attack the body’s joints, skin, blood cells and organs
  • Rheumatoid arthritis – where the immune system starts to attack the tissue lining the joints
  • Sarcoidosis – where small patches of red and swollen tissue, called granulomas, develop in the organs of the body

Swollen glands are more likely to be caused by cancer if they:

  • Don’t go away within a few weeks and slowly get bigger
  • Are painless and firm or hard when you touch them
  • Occur with other symptoms, such as night sweats and weight loss

Risk factors

What increases my risk for swollen glands?

Please consult with your doctor for more information.


Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are swollen glands diagnosed?

If necessary, your doctor may request some tests to help identify the cause. These can include blood tests, an ultrasound scan or computerised tomography (CT) scan, and/or a biopsy (where a small sample of fluid is taken from the swelling and tested).

How are swollen glands treated?

These infections usually clear up on their own, and the swollen glands will soon go down. You may use painkillers like paracetamol or ibuprofen (don’t give aspirin to children under 16).

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage swollen glands?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with swollen glands:

  • Resting
  • Drinking plenty of fluids (to avoid dehydration)

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: October 19, 2017 | Last Modified: October 19, 2017

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