What are the causes and treatments for swollen lymph nodes in the armpit?

The immune system of the body includes lymph nodes. They operate as filters in the body, eliminating potentially dangerous chemicals. An inflamed lymph node in the armpit might indicate an infection or injury.

Lymphoma is one of the most prevalent causes of lymph node swelling. It may be caused by a variety of things, from simple infections that usually go away on their own to more serious conditions like lymphoma.

We’ll look at why lymph nodes swell, the most prevalent reasons of this symptom, and when you should see a doctor in this article.

What is it?

swollen lymph nodes in armpit

The lymph nodes may expand when they begin to filter undesirable cells from the lymph when a person has an infection or an injury.

Lymph is a liquid fluid that moves waste items away from cells and carries oxygen to them. It also has white blood cells, which aid in the battle against infections.

The lymph nodes might expand as they work harder to eliminate waste. Certain parts of the body, such as the neck, armpits, and groin, are particularly prone to enlargement.

The touch of a swollen lymph node might be unpleasant and uncomfortable. It may be noticeably expanded beneath the skin in some circumstances, but it may be smaller or deeper in the body in others, and only visible when touching the area.

Viral causes

Swollen lymph nodes can be caused by a variety of viruses. These are some of them:

Other visual signs, such as a rash, are common with some infections.

Other viral infections, on the other hand, might induce enlarged lymph nodes with no other symptoms. These are some of them:

Influenza (flu)

The flu is a respiratory infection that can cause swelling in the lymph nodes. The flu has symptoms that are similar to other respiratory infections, but they are more severe. They also tend to manifest themselves immediately rather than gradually.

The flu can also cause the following symptoms:

Vomiting and diarrhea are also possible, although children are more likely to experience these symptoms.

If you have the flu, you should stay at home and relax as much as possible, avoiding contact with people. Although most individuals recover without treatment from the flu, it can occasionally lead to problems.

The following people are at the greatest risk of complications:

  • young children
  • adults over 65 years of age
  • pregnant people
  • people with underlying health conditions

Antiviral medicine may be required for people in these categories to avoid severe symptoms. Becoming a flu vaccine every year is the greatest method to avoid getting sick with the flu.

Infectious mononucleosis

A viral infection causes infectious mononucleosis, generally known as mono or glandular fever. It might cause swelling in the lymph nodes in the neck and armpits. Mono can also induce the following symptoms:

  • extreme fatigue
  • fever
  • swelling in the liver, spleen, or both
  • sore throat
  • body aches
  • headaches

Mono will disappear on its own time. The majority of patients recover in 2–4 weeks, although some people have symptoms for a longer period of time. During recuperation, resting, drinking drinks, and using over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications can all assist.

Bacterial causes

Lymph nodes can enlarge as a result of bacterial infections. The following are some instances of infections that might affect the nodes in the armpit:

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is an infection of the skin. It happens when germs infiltrate the skin and infect the deeper layers, maybe as a result of a damaged skin region caused by an accident.

Lymph nodes in the area may enlarge as a result of cellulitis. An infection in the arm, for example, may cause the lymph nodes in the armpit to expand. The following are some of the most common symptoms of cellulitis at the infection site:

  • pain and swelling
  • skin sores
  • skin that is warm to the touch
  • redness, which may be less apparent in people with dark skin tones
  • hardening of the skin
  • fluid collection under the skin

Cellulitis can also cause the following symptoms:

  • fever or chills
  • body aches
  • muscle and joint pain
  • vomiting and nausea
  • fatigue

Antibiotics are used to treat cellulitis. A person may need to stay in the hospital if the infection is severe or if they need IV antibiotics, which are given straight into a vein by a doctor.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is transferred by the saliva of ticks, which are tiny insects that can bite people. Swollen lymph nodes are one of the first signs of Lyme disease, and they can emerge 3–30 days after the tick bite.

Other early warning signs include:

  • a circular rash resembling a bull’s-eye at the site of the bite
  • fever
  • chills
  • joint or muscle aches
  • fatigue
  • headaches

Antibiotics are usually prescribed by a doctor to treat Lyme disease. Anyone who feels they may be suffering from this ailment should get medical help as soon as possible.

Swollen lymph nodes can also be caused by bacterial infections such as:

These infections, on the other hand, usually affect lymph nodes in other parts of the body, such as the neck or groin. They are less prone to induce armpit edema.

Other causes

Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit are not necessarily caused by bacteria or viruses. Other factors to consider are:

Rheumatoid arthritis

Swollen lymph nodes can be caused by a variety of inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The immune system of the body attacks the lining of the joints, resulting in stiffness, pain, and warmth.

According to a review paper published in 2019, RA damages lymph nodes, limiting their ability to drain fluid from inflamed joints nearby. Local lymph node enlargement may occur as a result of this dysfunction.

RA is treated with anti-inflammatories and pain relievers prescribed by doctors. Physical treatment might also be beneficial. A doctor may prescribe surgery to replace or repair problematic joints in specific circumstances.

Cancer

Swollen lymph nodes might be a sign of cancer in some circumstances.

Lymphoma is a cancer that starts in the lymphatic system. Lymphoma comes in a variety of forms, including:

  • Hodgkin lymphoma
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • non-Hodgkin lymphoma in children
  • Waldenström macroglobulinemia
  • lymphoma of the skin

Lymphoma symptoms can include, in addition to enlarged lymph nodes:

  • unintentional weight loss
  • feeling tired
  • fever
  • night sweats

Swelling in these areas of the body can also be caused by cancers that have progressed to the lymph nodes, such as breast cancer.

Doctors will propose therapy based on the kind and stage of cancer, as well as the patient’s age and overall condition.

It’s important to realize, however, that enlarged lymph nodes can be caused by a variety of factors other than cancer.

Diagnosis

Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit can be determined by a doctor, who can also offer the best therapy. They could inquire about the individual’s symptoms, evaluate their medical history, and do a physical examination.

A doctor may also do diagnostic procedures such as blood testing, biopsies, or medical imaging in some circumstances.

Duration

The swelling in the lymph nodes under the armpit usually goes away in 1–2 weeks.

If the swelling persists or worsens over time, a person should consult a physician.

Home care

Lymph nodes that have swollen might be painful. While undergoing medical treatment, a person might use specific procedures at home to alleviate any discomfort.

A warm compress, for example, can be used to relieve discomfort. They can soak a washcloth in warm or hot water and wring it mostly dry before applying it to the swollen lymph node.

To ease discomfort, people can use over-the-counter pain relievers such acetaminophen or ibuprofen. If a person is unsure about which prescriptions are best for them, they should consult their doctor.

When should you see a doctor?

Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit should be discussed with a doctor. Swollen lymph nodes can be caused by a variety of diseases, and a doctor can rule out things like Lyme disease, which requires immediate treatment.

Although enlarged lymph nodes are frequently the result of infection, it is important to make an appointment if:

  • the swelling continues for more than 2 weeks or worsens after this time
  • the lump feels hard or does not move when a person touches it
  • there is swelling in lymph nodes in more than one area — for example, in both the neck and armpits
  • the swollen lymph nodes are not painful
  • there are other symptoms, such as fever, night sweats, or unexplained weight loss

If a person has already received cancer treatment, they should also visit their doctor regarding enlarged lymph nodes.

Conclusion

Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit might indicate a viral illness like the flu or mono. They can also be caused by a bacterial infection or Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). Swollen lymph nodes might be a sign of cancer in some circumstances.

Warm compresses and over-the-counter pain relievers can help with any discomfort or soreness. If a person’s lymph nodes are enlarged for no apparent reason, they should consult a doctor.

Sources

  • https://www.cdc.gov/epstein-barr/about-mono.html
  • https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/cellulitis/
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/swollen-lymph-nodes-in-armpit
  • https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm
  • https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-basics/lymph-nodes-and-cancer.html
  • https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lymphoma/index.htm
  • https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lymphoma.html
  • https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fimmu.2019.00519/full
  • https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/signs_symptoms/index.html
  • https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/glands/swollen-glands