Health Library

Chronic Lymphadenitis

Definition

Chronic lymphadenitis is when one or more lymph nodes are infected or inflamed for a long time. Lymph nodes help the body get rid of bacteria and viruses.

They are found in the neck, armpits, and groin.

Swollen Lymph Nodes
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Causes

Lymphadenitis is usually caused by an infection in the skin, ear, nose, or eye. It then spreads to the lymph nodes. Other causes are:

Risk Factors

This problem is more common in children under 12 years of age. Things that may raise the risk are:

  • Having an infection that causes it
  • Being in close contact with someone who has an infection that causes it
  • Having contact with animals

Symptoms

A person may have:

  • Swollen, painful, or hard lymph nodes—may be one or many nodes, in one area of the body or widespread
  • Skin over a node that is red and warm to the touch
  • Fever
  • Problems swallowing or breathing
  • Neck stiffness

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. There are many things that can cause lymph swelling. Tests to find a cause may include:

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to get rid of the infection and inflammation. How this is done depends on what is causing it. Treatments may be:

  • Medicines such as:
    • Antibiotics to treat infection
    • NSAIDs to reduce inflammation (kids should not take aspirin as it can cause serious health problems)
  • Home care such as hot, moist compresses to help relieve pain
  • Surgery to drain pockets of pus

Prevention

The risk of this health problem may be lowered by:

  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Washing hands regularly
  • Treating infections early

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
https://www.cdc.gov

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians
https://www.familydoctor.org

Canadian Resources

AboutKidsHealth
http://www.aboutkidshealth.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

References

Lymphadenitis. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/lymphadenitis. Accessed May 19, 2022.

Lymphadenopathy in adults—approach to the patient. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/approach-to/lymphadenopathy-in-adults-approach-to-the-patient. Accessed May 19, 2022.

Tzankov A. and Dirnhofer, S. A pattern-based approach to reactive lymphadenopathies. Semin Diagn Pathol, 2018; 35(1): 4-19.