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Lymphadenopathy, also referred to as adenopathy, is a medical condition, during which lymph nodes become enlarged or their number is increased. As a rule, those glands are invisible and intangible outside of a pathological state. Lymph nodes are forming lymphatic system and are capable of storing the immune system’s cells. That is why their importance in aiding immune system is unquestionable. Lymphadenopathy frequently appears in one specific area of the body as a consequence of certain infections, inflammations, injuries or tumours. In some incidents, however, this condition may affect multiple areas, especially due to systemic infections, such as influenza, tuberculosis or systemic lupus erythematosus. When it comes to a treatment, the source of the condition must be eradicated. There is no exclusive cure for the lymphadenopathy.
Interestingly, a condition during which enlarged lymph nodes are originating from inflammation has its individual name – lymphadenitis, rather than lymphadenopathy. Nevertheless, even professionals are using those two definitions interchangeably.
Based on the characteristics of the disease, there are 3 major categories of lymphadenopathy:
- Localized lymphadenopathy – which is affecting one particular area of the body. For instance, infections that are focused on the head or its surrounding will presumably cause the neck lymph nodes to grow.
- Generalized lymphadenopathy – this type is caused by a body-wide infections and can affect lymph nodes in a few areas or invade on the entire lymphatic system. It may appear as a result of diseases such as infectious mononucleosis, hyperthyroidism, tuberculosis, syphilis, toxoplasmosis and systemic lupus erythematosus. Other less common causes include sarcoidosis, Felty’s syndrome and AIDS.
- Dermatopathic lymphadenopathy – occurs due to various skin diseases.
There are numerous sources of lymph nodes abnormalities. One of the most common ones include infections, such as common cold, influenza, tooth abscess, mononucleosis, strep throat and tuberculosis. Other possible triggers for lymphadenopathy are either immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, or certain types of tumours, including those malignant as well. In addition, bites of certain venomous creatures may also lead to lymph nodes enlargement.
A condition called lymphoma is presumably the most threatening cause of the lymphadenopathy. It is a cancerous tumour, characterized by one of the highest death rates amongst all types of cancer. According to the data provided by WHO in 2014, lymphoma is responsible for approximately 300 thousands fatal incidents in 2012 alone.
Associated symptoms and signs
Adenopathy might as well by accompanied be set of other symptoms and signs. The most common ones of them include:
- Tenderness or pain, felt in the area of affected lymph nodes
- Features characteristic for infections, such as rhinitis, fever or sore throat
- Weight loss
- Swallowing and breathing difficulties
Since there is no specific treatment for the lymphadenopathy, the major task of the treatment is to exterminate an underlying disorder. Nevertheless, a patient may take advantage of warm compresses applied on the affected area, in order to minimize the pain and general discomfort. Possible treatment methods include e.g. antibiotics for bacterial infections, whereas surgery or radiotherapy are suitable for tumours. One have to bear in mind, however, that viral infections have the best possible outcome, as they tend to relieve spontaneously along with lymphadenopathy brought before.