Lymph nodes are an important component of our immune system. If your lymph nodes are swollen this can be a sign of infection. Both bacterial and viral infections can cause the lymph nodes to swell. Since our lymph nodes play a vital role in fighting off infections, it's important to know where the lymph nodes are throughout the body, and how to check them.
Lymph Nodes: What They Are and Where to Find Them
Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system which helps comprise our immune system. The lymphatic system is made of lymphatic vessels and tissue which drain lymph fluid from the body’s tissues. This helps protect the body from infection and disease by filtering out bacteria or diseased cells from the lymphatic fluid before returning it to the bloodstream - a vital role!
Lymph nodes are small oval lumps of lymphatic tissue found around the body. When your lymph nodes are swollen, this is your body’s way of telling you your immune system is fighting something internally. There are lymph nodes in the head and neck, armpit, chest, abdomen, groin, and behind the ears.
How to Diagnose Swollen Lymph Nodes
Unless swollen, lymph nodes are difficult to feel under the skin. Swollen lymph nodes are enlarged, painful, and tender to the touch. This is most commonly due to an infection. Sometimes swollen lymph nodes are an indication that cancer cells are present.
We recommend you check your lymph nodes once a month. This can be done at the same time as checking your skin and moles for changes. If you notice one of your lymph nodes is swollen, this may be a sign of infection. Keep an eye on it, as well as be alert for any other signs or symptoms of infection. If it remains swollen for longer than a week contact your health care provider for a check-up.
Checking Your Lymph Nodes
To begin a general check start in the head and neck. The first lymph node is located near the front of either ear, and can be gently massaged to feel for swelling. Check behind the ears, under the jawline, down the neck, and by the collarbone, looking for signs of lymph node swelling.
Compare the left side and right side of your lymph nodes for signs of swelling on either one. A swollen node may feel about the size of a pea or larger. After examining the nodes near the collarbone move on to the armpit nodes.
Checking the lymph nodes in the armpit is most easily done by removing your shirt and sitting in a comfortable position. Check each side individually, placing the fingers of the opposite hand around the borders of the arm and armpit.
Finally, there are a line of nodes near the genitals that can be felt along the inner thigh. There should be a horizonal line just below the ligament, and a vertical one running down the thigh. Check both the left and right sides for any signs of swelling.
In each of these areas you may struggle to feel anything unusual, or anything at all. Unless there’s an infection, the nodes should not be swollen, sometimes making it hard to feel anything at all. If you have any concerns or feel you have detected enlarged lymph nodes, contact your healthcare provider.
Get Your Lymph Nodes Checked at BASS Urgent Care
Swollen lymph nodes are an early sign of infection. Spotting infections in your body early increases the odds of a faster and easier recovery. If you have questions about swollen lymph nodes or want a second opinion, come into BASS Urgent Care. BASS’s medical experts are knowledgeable on everything from the common cold to the COVID-19 vaccine, and more. Located in Walnut Creek, BASS is a local trusted healthcare provider in the community.