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Swollen Lymph Nodes

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What does it mean when lymph nodes swell in two or more areas of the body?

When lymph nodes swell in two or more areas of the body, it is called generalized lymphadenopathy. This may be caused by:

  • A viral illness, such as measles, rubella, chickenpox (varicella), or mumps.
  • Mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), which results in fever, sore throat, and fatigue, or cytomegalovirus (CMV), a viral infection that causes symptoms similar to those of mononucleosis.
  • A bacterial illness, such as strep throat (caused by the streptococcus bacterium) or Lyme disease (a bacterial infection spread by certain types of ticks).
  • Side effects of phenytoin (Dilantin), a medicine used to prevent seizures.
  • Side effects of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccination.
  • Cancer, such as leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which develops after a person contracts HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). This virus attacks the immune system, making it difficult for the body to fight off infection and some disease.
  • Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection.

How are swollen lymph nodes treated?

Treatment for swollen glands focuses on treating the cause. For example, a bacterial infection may be treated with antibiotics, while a viral infection often goes away on its own. If cancer is suspected, a biopsy may be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Any swollen lymph nodes that don't go away or return to normal size within about a month should be checked by your doctor.

How long will lymph nodes remain swollen?

Lymph nodes may remain swollen or firm long after an initial infection is gone. This is especially true in children, whose glands may decrease in size while remaining firm and visible for many weeks.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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