Lymph nodes randomly appear on the human body for many reasons. You might have no idea about what these swollen lymph nodes really are. Let&...

What are Lymph Nodes?

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Lymph nodes randomly appear on the human body for many reasons. You might have no idea about what these swollen lymph nodes really are. Let's learn about lymph nodes in this article.
Image of normal lymph nodes and swollen lymph nodes
Normal lymph nodes and swollen lymph nodes

What is lymph?

Lymph is a clear fluid that travels through your body's arteries circulates, through your tissues to cleanse them and keep them firm. After passing through the channels of the lymphatic system, they drain into the lymph nodes.

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes are the filters along the lymphatic system. Their job is to filter out and trap bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and other unwanted substances, and to make sure they are safely eliminated from the body. The lymph nodes make antibodies that will help keep you from being infected with a particular germ in the future.

Also traveling through the arteries is fresh blood, which brings oxygen and other nutrients to all parts of the body. Used blood leaves the breasts through the veins and is pumped back to the heart and lungs to be refreshed. Lymph must also be refreshed and recycled. Lymph drains away from your breasts through the lymphatic system, which is made up of lymphatic channels and lymph nodes.

Where are lymph nodes located?

There are hundreds of lymph nodes found throughout the body. They are connected to one another by lymph vessels. Lymph nodes are commonly located in the areas beside the head and the neck region. They can also be found in the armpits, the groin, above the elbow, and deep inside the chest and the abdomen (belly). Their function is the same regardless of their location.

All the lymph channels from the fingers, palm, and hand get filtered through lymph nodes at the elbow, or at the arm pits. The lymph channels from the toes, legs and feet drain at the nodes behind the knees or at the groin. The channels from the face, head and scalp get filtered at lymph nodes in the neck. There are deeper lymph nodes as well located between lungs, around the coils of the intestines etc. 

What do lymph nodes contain?

Within the capsule, lymph nodes contain certain kinds of immune cells. These cells are mainly lymphocytes, which produce proteins that capture and fight viruses and other microbes, and macrophages, which destroy and remove the captured material.

What are lymphocytes?

The lymph nodes hold the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, originate from stem cells in the bone marrow. These act as fighters against foreign invasion by bacteria, viruses, cancer cells or toxins. The lymphocytes also help control the immune response.

This function is brought about by bringing the lymphocytes in contact with foreign materials – usually protein on the germs or toxins called antigens. Once in contact with the antigens, the lymphocytes are activated.

What causes enlarged lymph nodes?

The term "swollen glands" refers to enlargement of one or more lymph nodes. When lymph nodes are active in fighting infection, they may become swollen and painful. Usually, the pain is mild, and the lymph node does not get much bigger than 2 centimeters (slightly under 1 inch) in size.

While lymph nodes are the most common cause of a lump or a bump in the neck, there are other, much less common causes, e.g., cysts from abnormalities of fetal development or thyroid gland enlargement. Usually, us can tell the difference on a physical examination.

Can lymph nodes be dangerous?

When there’s a problem, such as infection, injury, or cancer, the node or the group of lymph nodes in that area may swell or enlarge as they work to filter out the “bad” cells. This may be called lymphadenopathy. Swollen lymph nodes tell you that something is not right, but other symptoms help pinpoint the problem. For instance, ear pain, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes near your ear are clues that you may have an ear infection or cold.

The vast majority of swollen lymph nodes soon return to normal size on their own without the need for an antibiotic and do not indicate a serious or dangerous medical condition.

How can cancer appear in the lymph nodes?

Cancer can appear in the lymph nodes in 2 ways: it can either start there or it can spread there from somewhere else.

Cancer that starts in the lymph nodes is called lymphoma. More often, cancer starts somewhere else and then spreads to lymph nodes.

What should you do when having lymph nodes?

If you have lymph nodes, you should start by first seeing your family doctor. The doctor will check your symptoms and give advice for your situation. Doctors may use scans or other imaging tests to look for enlarged nodes that deep in the body.


What are lymph nodes article by Medical News
Enlarged Lymph Nodes information by Pediatric Web
Lymph nodes and cancer information by American Cancer Society
Lymph node information by National Cancer Institute
5 Lymph Nodes: What are Lymph Nodes? Lymph nodes randomly appear on the human body for many reasons. You might have no idea about what these swollen lymph nodes really are. Let&...

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