Did you know that the human body has about 600 lymph nodes? All of these small nodes of the lymphatic system work to protect us from illness and damaging, disease-causing inflammation. But sometimes you may notice that your lymph nodes feel swollen, tender and even painful when touched. This condition, called lymphadenitis, is usually a sign of a bacterial infection somewhere in the body.
It’s true that antibiotics and even surgery can help to treat lymphadenitis. Sometimes those options are necessary, but a more natural approach, like using antibacterial essential oils, is also highly effective. Plus, natural treatments for lymphadenitis don’t increase your risk of developing antibiotic resistance or lead to gastrointestinal damage.
What is Lymphadenitis?
Lymphadenitis occurs when one or more of your lymph nodes is enlarged, usually due to an infection. In fact, lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system. They contain white blood cells, called lymphocytes. The white blood cells fight infections by producing proteins that capture and fight invaders, like viruses and other microbes.
These lymph nodes (or glands) are small, bean-shaped structures located along lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic vessels connect to each other in lymphatic chains throughout the body, much like blood vessels. Lymph is responsible for draining fluid from the tissues and transporting it to the lymph nodes, which then destroy bacteria and other harmful substances. After the lymph nodes clean the fluid, it flows back to the main vein called the superior vena cava, where it enters the blood stream.
When the lymph nodes become infected, it’s usually the result of an infection or inflammation that started somewhere else in the body.
Common Signs and Symptoms
The main symptom of lymphadenitis is enlarged or swollen lymph nodes. Generally, a normal size lymph node is less than one centimeter in diameter; however, there are exceptions in lymph nodes in different areas of the body. Also, children normally have larger lymph nodes between the ages of 2 and 10.
Symptoms of an infected lymph node or a group of infected lymph nodes may include:
swollen lymph nodes that become larger than 0.5 to 1 centimeter, depending on the location
hard lymph nodes
lymph nodes that cause pain and tenderness when touched
redness and tenderness of skin over the lymph nodes
lymph nodes filled with pus (called an abscess) that may feel rubbery
In severe cases, complications of untreated lymphadenitis may lead to the formation of an abscess that must be drained surgically, cellulitis (skin infection), sepsis (bloodstream infection) or fistulas that can develop with tuberculosis lymphadenitis.