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Swollen Glands

Woman showing her neck | Healthier Me TodaySwollen glands are nothing to fear. When our lymph nodes swell, it typically means that they are working to fight a bacterial or viral infection. Lymph nodes are small glands located throughout the body. They are responsible for detecting bacteria and blocking them from moving further along the lymphatic system.

When lymph nodes swell, they puff out. Although small, it can be alarming! The causes of swollen glands are listed below.

Causes of Swollen Glands

There are a lot of causes. Lymph nodes are small glands with a big responsibility. They frequently swell up since they are working. There are two specific groups of causes:

Infectious Causes

One group of causes is listed under “infections.” As the lymph nodes detect an infection in the liquid that moves through them, they block and fight it. During this stage, the small glands swell and can be painful to touch.

Infections that cause swollen glands are:

  • Ear infection
  • Strep throat
  • The common cold
  • Tooth infection
  • The flu

Non-Infectious Causes

Not all cases, however, are infectious. Lymph nodes are glands that are sensitive to change. Any change in the body can have them swelling up. Also, serious illnesses and conditions can trigger the swelling of lymph nodes as well.

Non-infectious causes include:

  • Overabundance of stress
  • Cancer
  • Lupus
  • Allergic reactions

Symptoms of Swollen Glands

The symptoms of swollen glands are just symptoms of the underlying cause. Swollen glands are just small bumps and balls in different body parts, swelling up because they are working. Other than swelling up, the symptoms are:

  • Deep cough
  • Constant sneezing
  • Fever
  • Pain when swallowing
  • Migraines

Lymph nodes, when they swell, can also feel painful to the touch. This is why it may hurt to walk or swallow.

Diagnosis of Swollen Glands

The diagnosis of swollen glands is an easy process that typically does not require additional testing. If you have noticed any of the symptoms listed above and feel a swollen gland, make your way to a doctor to get a diagnosis.

The doctor will begin by asking you questions, taking your temperature, and looking at the swollen gland. The healthcare professional will see if it is tender or hurts and proceed from there. If the doctor is concerned about the case, they may ask for others tests like blood tests and X-rays. Blood tests can tell the doctor if you have any other conditions that cause swollen glands. X-rays can better display the swollen gland.

Treatment of Swollen Glands

The treatment of swollen glands completely depends on the cause. Since swollen glands are a reaction to infections most of the time, the swelling will go down on its own. Doctors may prescribe some over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If the infection does not go away soon or without help, the doctor may also prescribe antibiotics to speed up the recovery. Typically, though, antibiotics are not necessary.

If the swollen gland is swelling because of stress, the only treatment is to remove the stressor. This is another type of swollen gland that will go away on its own. For more serious conditions, like cancer, treatment is necessary. If a tumor is a reason the lymph nodes are swelling, chemotherapy and radiation can be used to treat cancer. The lymph nodes are unlikely to decrease in swelling without cancer treatment.

How to Prevent Swollen Glands

Once the swollen lymph node is back to its normal size, it is wise to try and prevent it from happening again. Since glands swell when they are fighting an infection, you must prevent the disease. The best way to do this is by:

  • Frequently washing your hands
  • Flossing and brushing teeth regularly
  • Avoid swapping food and water with others


  1. Do swollen glands hurt? Not always. Swollen glands often go unnoticed because of how small they are. It is minimally and only when touched or moved if they do hurt.
  2. How large are swollen glands? All glands swell to different sizes. Swollen glands can be as small as a pea or as large as a quarter.
  3. How long do swollen glands stay swollen? This depends on the condition. If you are sick with a virus, it is likely the swollen gland will only stay this way until you begin recovery.

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!