What is a reactive lymph node? Find out more about reactive lymph nodes

White and black picture of woman's neck

Probably everyone had swollen glands in their life at least once even while cold or other kind of infection. Those swallen glands were actually swollen lymph nodes. You may had also heard that this condition can be called as reactive lymphadenopathy.

What are the symptoms of lymph nodes?

There is no way that you gonna feel your lymph node. When your lymph nodes are swallen or if you have reactive lymph nodes you will probably be able to feel them by pressing your fingers to your skin. Their size can be different they can be tiny as pea or can be as big as a golf ball.

When your lymph nodes is swelling because of an infection or injury, the swollen lymph node is:

  • smaller than 1.5 cm in diameter,
  • soft,
  • movable.

Person that experience lot’s of swollen lymph nodes can have severe systemic infection.

Swollen lymph nodes

It is very possible to find swollen lymph nodes in mulitiple body parts. Swollening may not be the only thing you can find out. Addition to swollening can also be:

  • warmth,
  • pain,
  • tenderness.

All of the symptoms depends on this what kind of cause. If you have your lymph nodes responding to an upper reparatory infection, for example you could have a runny nose, sore throat or fever.

What is the reason why for reactive lymph nodes

If you have reactive lymph nodes then you should know that your lymphatic system is working really hard to protect you. Lymph fluid is building up in lymph nodes with a reason. This reason why is because it wants to effort to trap bacteria, viruses or other harmful pathogens. But they can also show up because of autoimmune diseases which is for example lupus. Here are some common bacterias or viral infections which can couse the lymph nodes:

  • mononucleosis,
  • strep throat,
  • ear infection,
  • tooth abscess,
  • skin or wound infection,
  • human immunodeficiency virus,
  • rheumatoid arthritis,
  • reactions to certain antiseizure and malaria prevention medications,
  • measles,
  • sexually transmitted infections,
  • toxoplasmosis,
  • lupus.

The location of lymph nodes depends on what kind of case your body is dealing with. If you gonna have infection in your tooth you can find swollen lymph nodes in your jaw area. Swollen lymph nodes are hardly ever caused by cancer. However enlarged lymph nodes can be on of the signs that other types of cancer, such as breast cancer did spreed to your lymph node.

You should get in touch with your doctor if you can feel that your lymph node is hard and immobile.


Reactive lymph nodes most of the time are symptoms of some kind of infections. So the first thing that your doctor is going to do is ask about any other symptoms that you notice. He may also touch your lymph node in physical examination and ask if you can feel any kind of pain while he touches it. Doctor can diagnose your case by iscussing your symptoms and medical history. What’s later depends on this what did they find durning the examination and your symptoms. Doctor may have also tell you that there are needed to be run blood tests or imaging test like for example MRI scan to rule out some illness. In some cases doctor may decide on doing a excisional biopsy from lymph node.

Causes of swollen lymph nodes

There are common reasons why lymph nodes are swollen. Here are those reasons why:

  • infections for example skin and ear infections or sinus infections,
  • exposure to allergens,
  • injury or irritation to the skin,
  • dental health issues for example it can be cavity or tooth infection,
  • exposure to bacteria or viruses,
  • mononucleosis. It is very contagious virus that can cause many lymph nodes to swell,
  • skin irritation for example from acne or a rash.

The reason why cna also be if someone has got some kind of immune disorder. There cab also be some of less common causes of swollen lymph nodes. Which are:

  • Metastatic cancer,
  • Cancer of the lymph nodes (lymphoma),
  • Systemic infection that can become life threatening (sepsis).

If someone has got single lymph node swollen then it is mostly nothing dengerous.


Sick girl is in bed sneezing

Most of the innfections that causes swollen lymph nodes are mostly viral. The ones that shows the most often and which are underlying infection are:

  • the common cold,
  • the flu,
  • sinus infections,
  • mononucleosis,
  • tonsillitis,
  • tooth or gum infections,
  • staph infections,
  • strep throat,
  • skin infections,
  • fungal infections.

But there are also more severe infections which can cause swollen lymph nodes. Those infections are:

  • chicken pox,
  • tuberculosis,
  • measles,
  • rubella,
  • herpes,
  • Lyme disease,
  • HIV,
  • toxoplasmosis.

There is also something called cat scratch disease. Cat scratch disease is also called cat scratch fever. This is lymph node swelling in area of a cat scratch.


Most of the time swollen lymph nodes doesn’t need any kind of treatment. Little viral infections has to be defeated by itselves. Viral infections can not be treated with antibiotics.

While you are healing and you want to get rid of pain you can try out things like:

  • try putting on a swollen area warm compress.
  • if you want some kind of pain relief you can take some pain killers.
  • you also should be having lots of liquids and rest.

Cancer in the lymph nodes

Cancer which is related with lymph nodes can occure in lymph nodes can show up there in 2 ways. First way is to just start there and the second one is to spreed there. The first case is called lymphoma. There can be found Hodgkin lymphoma which is the kind of cancer which is starting in white cells which are the part of your body’s immune system. Second one is non hodgkin lymphoma which also starts in white cells it can mostly touch adults but can less often happen to kids.

There are some risk factors that can make a person more likely to have a malignant lymph problem like this lymphoma cancer. Those risk factors are:

  • 40 years or older,
  • male gander,
  • white skin.

Those people can also have systemic symptoms. Those systemic symptoms can be for example fever, night sweats and weight loss out of nowhere.

Tumor metastatic lymph nodes

Metastatic lymph nodes are this kind of lymph nodes which has got cancer in them. This cancer had to spreed from some other place. Lymph nodes are tiny things spreeded all over the body and are responsible for the immune system, they help the body fight infections and cancers. Lung cancer – Enlarged axillary lymph nodes often are a sign of a lung cancer.


  • bacteria, mycobacteria, fungi, chlamydia, parasites may be a reason of lymph node enlargement. he location of the lymph node enlargement is whether the lymphadenopathy is localizedor generalized may provide a clue to the cause.
  • generalized lymphadenopathy is when someone has got more than one region swells.
  • cervical lymph nodes are the kind of lymph nodes are the neck lymph nodes. When you have malignant cervical lymphadenopathy it is health condition when your lymph nodes in your neck are swollen.
  • nodal matting is some kind of additional grey scale features which can be seen in tuberculous nodes or may also be seen in nodes that have been previously irradiated.
  • lymphadenopath is connected with fever headache, myalgia and also sore throat which may be mistaken with infectious mononucleosis.

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One thought on “What is a reactive lymph node? Find out more about reactive lymph nodes

  1. Once I found on me a swollen lymph node I did panic at that time, but I went to the doctor and he told me that it is becuase I was just having flu. This article is wonderful for those that do not know much of lymph nodes like me. Thank you very much for this awesome article.

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