Lymph nodes – this is a kind of collection points and filters for lymph flowing from the tissues. Lymph is a biological fluid of the body, similar in composition to blood plasma, but additionally containing immune cells. With the help of lymph from organs, excess tissue fluid, metabolic products, toxins, and sometimes living microorganisms are removed.
Inflammation of the lymph nodes always indicates some sort of disorder in the body. Consider the reasons for this process.
Lymphatic Outflow Overview
The general scheme of lymphatic drainage at the initial stages resembles the circulatory system: small vessels depart from each part of the body, they unite into larger trunks. These trunks are infused into fairly large glandular formations – lymph nodes, where the partial cleansing of the lymph occurs.
Large groups of lymph nodes are located on the neck (lymph outflow from the head and neck), axillary cavities (outflow from the upper extremities), inguinal areas (outflow from the lower extremities), in the abdominal cavity (outflow of lymph from the intestine). Gradually, the lymphatic vessels gather in the large lymphatic ducts, which flow into the venous system.
Lymphadenitis: what is it?
Lymphadenitis is an inflammation of the lymph nodes caused by an infection. This infection is bacterial in most cases, but it can also be fungal and viral. Pathogens of bacterial infections are non-specific and specific.
Nonspecific – These are microorganisms that cause various diseases in different organs. For example, staphylococcus can cause sore throat, boils, osteomyelitis, and so on. Specific microflora leads to the development of a single disease, for example, tuberculosis or syphilis.
Of the non-specific pathogens, the most frequent pathological agents are the so-called pyogenic agents: staphylococci and streptococci.
The cause of lymphadenitis can be mumps and flu viruses. Immunodeficiency virus does not cause lymphadenitis, but lymphadenopathy: this is another condition that does not cause inflammation of the lymph nodes.
The pathogens of tuberculosis, syphilis, actinomycosis, gonorrhea, tularemia, and especially dangerous infections (plague, anthrax) can be identified from specific microorganisms.
The infection enters the lymph nodes most often through the lymphogenous route, that is, from the infected organ through the lymphatic vessels. It can also penetrate with blood (hematogenous route) or from surrounding tissues (contact path).
Usually, the lymph nodes in such cases begin to function actively and increase in size. If they do not cope with their cleansing function, the microbes begin to multiply directly in the lymph node. At the same time, the number of cells increases, an inflammatory reaction occurs. It is characterized by swelling of the lymph node, redness of the skin over it and an increase in its temperature, painfulness in palpation of the lymph node area. Quite often there is necrosis, that is, the death of the tissues of the affected lymph node.
It is clear that any infectious disease with an unfavorable course may be complicated by lymphadenitis. However, there are diseases that are the most frequent causes of this condition.
Diseases complicated by lymphadenitis
Lymphadenitis may be complicated by diseases of the skin and subcutaneous tissue: abscesses, boils, carbuncles, felon, purulent wounds, erysipelas. In these diseases, the lymph nodes of the respective areas are affected. For example, a wound on the shoulder can cause inflammation of the axillary lymph nodes, and on the lower legs – popliteal or inguinal.
Dental caries can cause cervical lymphadenitis. Osteomyelitis (purulent inflammation of bone tissue) can lead to the development of regional lymphadenitis.
In childhood, inflammatory diseases of the upper respiratory tract can be the cause of lymphadenitis: otitis media, sore throat, flu, scarlet fever, and epidemic parotitis. In these diseases, the neck lymph nodes are most often affected.
Purulent skin diseases in children (pyoderma) are often complicated by lymphadenitis of the corresponding area.
In these conditions, mainly acute lymphadenitis occurs. Specific flora is often the cause of chronic lymphadenitis, which can affect the nodes of one or several groups.
So, syphilis is characterized by inflammation of the inguinal, occipital and ulnar lymph nodes. Often, patients with syphilis first go to the doctor about the inflammation of the lymph nodes.
Tuberculosis often affects the cervical lymph nodes (the so-called scrofula), as well as bronchial and mesenteric.
Lymphadenitis is a dangerous condition. If it is not properly treated, abscesses and cellulitis of surrounding tissues may develop, followed by the development of sepsis and an unfavorable outcome. Therefore, when the inflammation of the lymph nodes, you must consult a doctor.
Which doctor to contact
An enlarged lymph node appears most often with the development of any disease – skin infection, acute respiratory infections and others. Therefore, you should contact a specialist specialist – a surgeon (with an abscess on the skin), a dermatologist, an infectious diseases specialist, a pulmonologist, an ENT specialist, a dentist, a urologist, a hematologist. If you are unable to determine for yourself the reason for the increase in the lymph nodes, check with a general practitioner who can clarify the cause of the lymphadenitis. Enlarged lymph nodes in a child requires consultation with a pediatrician.