The immune system of our body is a complex system made up of different structures, viscera and organs that work in harmony with a purpose: protect our body from external aggressions of infectious agents (both viruses and bacteria), and in some cases directly involved in various important functions such as acting as a filter circulation or participate in the transport and absorption of nutrients. This is the case of the spleen, formed by cells, especially by-lymphocytes and blood we found in the abdomen to the right of the stomach.
The lymph nodes are also part of our immune system. They consist of small, oval and encapsulated structures that are interspersed throughout the course of the lymphatic vessels, sometimes quite scattered throughout our body and in some areas are grouped in larger numbers (that is what happens to areas such as the neck, armpits and groin). Inside we find fibrous trabeculae through which flows the lymph.
Among the most important lymph nodes functions, they act as a barrier against infection being capable of acting as an efficient filter capable of destroying microorganisms and toxins.
Where do we find nodes in our body and what are palpable?
The truth is that we find lymph nodes throughout our body, some accessible to medical palpation and others not being visible only when certain medical tests are done (as with the nodes situated near internal organs). Even in those areas where are palpable, it is possible that its palpation may be complicated by their small size under normal conditions.
Those that are easily accessible are located in the neck, nape, armpits and groin. But precisely depending on the place they will present a different shape and a different normal size. For example, the nodes located in the neck present form lentil and size usually 0.5 centimeters, while those found in the groin are much more elongated and measure about 1.5 centimeters in normal conditions.
Inflammation of a lymph node: its main causes
Although we tend to think of a single cause, such as it is viral or bacterial infection, the fact is that in reality the lymph nodes can become swollen for many reasons. In most cases it is mainly due to banal causes without much importance that disappear after a few days. However, at other times the cause is much more severe, and may be due to the existence of a cancer. Therefore before the swelling of a lymph node is required the observation, so that when the node remains enlarged for more than 2 weeks without apparent cause there is necessary the urgent medical assessment.
We can summarize the main reasons why a node is swollen:
Common infections: As in the case of flu, tonsillitis and colds.
Viral infections: Infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus, measles, rubella and HIV.
Bacterial infections: Salmonella, tuberculosis and syphilis.
Other infections: Toxoplasmosis, leishmaniasis or malaria.
Rheumatic diseases: Systemic lupus erythematosus or rheumatoid arthritis.
Autoimmune diseases: Lupus, sarcoidosis or Kawasaki syndrome.
Malignant lymphoma: Leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease or non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
The characteristics of nodes that must be taken into account
There are some features of lymph node which are very helpful when we find out whether or not to normal, inflamed or pathological. These key features are:
Size: Lymph node less than 1 centimeter in diameter are considered normal. We should note that in the groin can measure up to 1.5 centimeters. When the size is larger than 4 centimeters a biopsy should be performed, as occurs in the presence of lymph nodes above the collarbone (they are always pathological).
Mobility: Swollen glands of infectious origin and infiltrated by lymphomas tend to be easily movable, while infiltrated by metastasis tend to be fixed being adhered to deep layers.
Consistency: When the cause of the inflammation is infectious the ganglions usually present soft consistency, the ganglions with firm consistency are habitual in the lymphoma, hard consistency and are common in metastasis cancer.
Location: Depending on the place where the ganglion has inflamed it can help to know what is the cause being anatomical area that drains lymph node chain.
Pain: The usual appearance of painful lymph when inflammation due to an infectious process occurs, not being so common in case of necrosis due to metastasis.
Before any inflammation of a node, it is necessary to observe its evolution over time, so that larger than 4 centimeters or in the presence of an inflamed lymph node enlarges without any apparent cause or size that does not reduce its size after 2 weeks it is important to seek medical advice.