Ask the Doctor: Information on Enlarged Lymph Nodes?

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Q: Do you have any information on lymph node enlargement due to lymph nodes reacting to something in the body? – M

A: Lymphadenopathy is the enlargement of one or more lymph nodes that are typically found in the neck, axilla (under arm) or inguinal region (groin). The majority of lymph node swelling goes undetected; however, it is common to find one or more swollen nodes at the time of illness. Lymph nodes are part of the intricate lymphatic system, which functions to get rid of unwanted wastes in the blood. The lymphatic system is a complex network of vessels that are closely related to the circulatory system.

• As the blood carries oxygen and nutrients to the tissues of the body, the lymphatic system removes unwanted impurities from the plasma to be filtered through the lymphatic vessels and nodes.

• When the plasma is thoroughly sifted and free from contaminants the blood is returned to the circulatory system.

Lymph nodes normally enlarge due to increased production of cells, called lymphocytes, which are used to fight any pathogens present in the lymph.

Generally lymph node swellings are caused by infection; however, they can become enlarged due to other illnesses such as connective tissue disease, endocrine disorders or cancer.

(Ed note: Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the neck or armpit are a classic symptom of ME/CFS, or at least of the subset that’s thought to be a ‘post-viral’ illness, involving the replication, reactivation or reaction against ‘lifetime’ viruses such as Epstein-Barr.(1,2) In the case of Lyme disease, the Lyme spirochete, if unchecked at an early stage, can accumulate in and cause swelling of the lymph nodes(3), possibly as part of a strategy for ‘subverting’ the immune response.)

Enlarged nodes will often be tender, soft and movable, indicating a non-pathological node [not caused by disease]. If a lymph node is larger than 3/8 inches in diameter, hard and fixed, or has been swollen longer than 2 weeks it is important to consult a physician.

In general, however, the majority of swollen nodes are simply your body’s reaction to an infection.

Dr. Kristi Wrightson, ND, MS, RD

This week’s question & answer calls on Dr. Kristi Wrightson, ND, MS, RD. Dr. Wrightson is a board-certified, licensed Naturopathic Doctor and Registered Dietitian with a masters in Nutrition. In her integrative medicine practice in Santa Barbara, CA, she sees a broad spectrum of patients, from those who want general preventive medicine to those coping with chronic disease.
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1. “Viruses and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Why Do Viruses Make Us Tired?”

2. “Dr. Holtorf on Infectious Causes of ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia” 

3. “Lyme Bug Invades Lymph Nodes & Rewires Their Immune Response, UC Davis Researchers Find”

Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is generic, is not meant to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, Illness or disease, and is not intended to substitute for the personal attention of a healthcare professional.