Lymph node swelling in the armpit - how dangerous is it?


The human body contains 600-700 lymph nodes that serve as a kind of filter station for the lymph fluid. In the lymph nodes there is an important defense station of the immune system, which reacts to pathogens washed up or other disturbing influences.

Most of the lymph nodes are in the head and neck area, followed by the armpits and groin area. The remaining lymph nodes are distributed over the chest, abdomen and the rest of the body.

If these filter stations react to disturbing events, the lymph nodes swell. This is an expression of the immune response. In most cases, these are inflammatory processes in the context of simple infectious diseases, but the lymph nodes can also be enlarged in malignant diseases.
In order to distinguish malignant from benign lymph node swellings, there are various clinical indications that offer a good orientation. In an emergency, the diagnosis can be confirmed with a biopsy.

Whether a swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit is dangerous or not decides what the trigger is.

How dangerous is a lymph node swelling in the armpit?

Whether or not swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit is dangerous depends on the trigger or cause.

Usually it is just a reaction of the immune system to a simple harmless infection, such as the flu. Then the swelling usually disappears as the infection subsides and is not dangerous. Even after a vaccination, swelling of the lymph nodes is not dangerous. Lymph nodes with painful pressure and reddening of the skin over the lymph nodes that are easily movable are more likely to indicate a harmless cause.

In rare cases, a malignant disease or a serious infection can also be behind the swollen lymph nodes. If the lymph node swelling does not occur in connection with an infection, a more dangerous one can also be the trigger. If the lymph nodes are not painful on pressure and cannot be moved, this also suggests a malignant cause. In this case, a doctor should definitely be consulted for further clarification.


There are many causes of lymph node swelling in the armpit. These lymph nodes usually react to an infection, for example a flu-like infection of the respiratory tract. The immune system defends itself against the pathogens and kills them, which leads to the reactive enlargement of the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes can show this reaction in both bacterial and viral infections. Examples of such infections are Pfeiffer's glandular fever (infectious mononucleosis, EBV), measles, rubella, tuberculosis and syphilis.
Other pathogens can also cause such an immune reaction, for example in the context of malaria or toxoplasmosis.

After vaccination against infectious diseases, lymph node swelling can also occur. Pathogens can also enter the body through small skin wounds or other trauma and cause swelling of the lymph nodes.

Finally, there are rheumatic diseases that are often associated with swelling of the lymph nodes. For example rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus. A benign systemic lymph node swelling causes sarcoid.

Read more about causes swollen lymph nodes or swelling of the lymph nodes after surgery

If the lymph node enlarges in the armpit, malignant diseases must always be considered, for example breast cancer or lymphomas (Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma).

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Lymph node swelling after a cold

During a cold, it is not uncommon for some lymph nodes to swell (Lymphadenopathy). Most often, the lymph nodes of the neck are affected in this case. Lymph nodes may be swollen behind the ear, above the collarbones, on the neck and in the area of ​​the lower jaw. Lymph nodes in the armpit area are less often affected. The lymph nodes can be moved easily against the surrounding tissue and the swelling goes down after a few days. The swelling is caused by the fact that the viruses, which are often found in a cold, get into the body and later in the lymph nodes. If the cells of the immune system in the lymph nodes come into contact with the pathogens, they multiply. This causes the lymph nodes to swell.

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Lymph node swelling after vaccination

It is not uncommon for the lymph nodes around the vaccination site to swell after vaccination. After a vaccination, the lymph nodes in the armpit may swell because the body makes antibodies against the injected vaccine. This is due to the fact that in a vaccination partially killed or inactivated pathogens or pathogen components are injected into the body.

Vaccination with live vaccines, for example measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), chickenpox and yellow fever vaccinations, can lead to such a vaccination reaction, as a small amount of live pathogens are injected. This is similar to a real infection, so that the body reacts to the pathogens like a real infection. Since there are many immune cells in the lymph nodes, they enlarge reactively.

This in turn means that it is not uncommon for the lymph nodes to slowly swell shortly after the vaccination. The swelling can persist for a few days, even weeks. However, it should have reached its maximum within the first 1-2 days, otherwise the swelling is more likely due to another cause. The lymph node swelling after vaccination usually goes away by itself and has no disease value. It is not uncommon for it to be accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue and tiredness. They decline after a few days.

Nowadays the deltoid muscle on the upper arm is usually vaccinated. This is located in the immediate vicinity of the armpit, which is why the lymph nodes there often swell after a vaccination. This is not uncommon and usually goes away after a few days.

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Lymph node swelling during pregnancy and breastfeeding

The Lymph nodes in the armpit can also in the pregnancy or Lactation swelling. This is usually not a sign of a serious illness, but often occurs in the context of infectious diseases, for example with one cold. The swelling indicates that the body is reacting to and fighting pathogens. In the event of additional symptoms that persist or worsen over a long period of time, a doctor should be consulted as a precaution so that the pregnancy and the baby are not at risk.
On the unauthorized use of medication should be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding waived because they can be harmful to the unborn child or the baby.

Should be the lymph nodes in the armpit without recognizable Base swell, so without any symptoms of illness, this should be observed and also by one To be clarified by a doctor. This can for example be a Ultrasound examination the armpit to further clarify the lymph node swelling.

Lymph node swelling before your period

Before the onset of the female cycle, some women occasionally complain of swollen lymph nodes, especially in the armpit area. This does not seem unusual, but the cause is not entirely clear, as lymph node swelling is not actually related to hormone levels. If the swelling persists for a longer period of time, a doctor should be consulted.

Lymph node swelling in the child

Lymph node swellings also often indicate infections in children. Sometimes harmless colds are the cause, but more serious infections such as scarlet fever, measles, or rubella can also be the cause. What all three diseases have in common, however, is that the lymph node swelling usually occurs in the neck area and rarely in the armpit.

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Swelling in the armpit area occurs in children, for example, with injuries to the hand and arm, minor injuries, for example only small scratches, can be a trigger here. But even in children, in rare cases, a serious illness such as cancer can be the cause of permanent lymph node swelling. Therefore, the doctor should be consulted if the swelling does not go away.

Lymph node swelling after shaving

Lymph node swelling that occurs after shaving is a very common phenomenon. Shaving often results in small lesions on the surface of the skin. Bacteria can enter the body through these lesions. These then reach the lymph nodes where they trigger an immune response. This means that the body's defense cells in the lymph nodes perceive the pathogens and react with increased cell production, which leads to swelling of the lymph nodes. The lymph node swelling is usually unilateral on the side of the lesion and lasts for a few days. It then disappears on its own.

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Use of deodorant

A Lymph node swelling in the armpit usually depends Not with the Use of Deodorants together. Will the Armpit however shaved, germs can get through Micro injuries spread into the tissue. The lymph nodes located there react to the invading pathogens and fight them. This can lead to swelling of the lymph nodes.

Even with an intolerance reaction to a used deodorant, swelling can occur, but it is the tissue in general that swells and not just a lymph node. Current debates are also deodorants that aluminum contain. This is suspected to be the origin of Breast cancer to encourage when it's through in the armpit small shaving wounds penetrates the tissue. Breast cancer, in turn, can spread to the axillary lymph nodes, causing the lymph nodes to enlarge.

Lymph node swelling after an insect bite

Even after insect bites, the lymph nodes can swell. Either because the insects themselves were carriers of a pathogen (this rarely occurs in Europe) or because the sting or bite creates a tiny skin lesion through which the bacteria can penetrate. These then lead to an activation of the immune defense cells in the lymph node and thus to a swelling of the lymph node.

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Can that be an indication of cancer?

A swelling of the lymph nodes can in rare cases indicate cancer.

The lymph nodes collect the lymph fluid from different parts of the body in order to examine them for their pollutants, toxins and pathogens, to filter them and to prepare the body for them. In addition to pathogens, malignant tumor cells can also get into the lymph fluid and be transported to the nearest lymph node. The cells can multiply there and develop so-called "lymph node metastases".

Less often, the lymphocytes that are present in the lymph nodes can also change malignantly and lead to lymph gland cancer that develops in the lymph nodes themselves. In both cases, the lymph nodes swell after a while and can spread to all of the surrounding lymph vessels and lymph nodes. The lymph node is typically not painful. Swollen lymph nodes in the armpit can often represent settlements of a breast cancer, which often manifests itself in this region.

More on this:

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A swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit is noticeable by a "lump" in the otherwise smooth armpit. If such a swelling is detected, various criteria for this swelling should be observed.
For example, it is important to determine whether the lymph node is tender. If so, this is initially a good sign, as the lymph nodes swell very quickly as part of an infection, which can then cause pain. Malignantly enlarged lymph nodes tend not to be painful.

Another criterion is mobility. Inflammatory enlarged lymph nodes are usually smoothly demarcated, homogeneous and easily movable in the tissue. On the other hand, malignantly enlarged lymph nodes tend to be irregularly contoured, inhomogeneous and baked with the surrounding tissue or other lymph nodes.
If the lymph node swelling occurs symmetrically on both sides of the body, this is also more of a good sign and suggests a benign finding.
A one-sided swelling of the lymph nodes does not have to be malignant per se. The consistency of the lymph node also plays a role. Benign lymph nodes are plump and elastic, while malignant ones are more firm and firm. If the skin over the lymph node is red, this can be an indication of rapid lymph node enlargement. The skin is then quickly stretched and reacts with redness.

Lymph nodes enlarged as part of an infection usually shrink again as soon as the infection is over. The typical symptoms of the disease therefore also exist during the swelling.

An isolated lymph node swelling without a recent infection or other obvious causes, such as skin injuries in the immediate vicinity of the lymph node, should be assessed as suspicious from a medical point of view and should be clarified as soon as possible.

Read more on the topic Aching lymph nodes

Unilateral swelling of the lymph nodes

A one-sided swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit that has persisted for a long time should be clarified by a doctor. Usually the cause is harmless, for example a bacterial or viral infection, but malignant diseases can also hide behind unilateral lymph node swellings. In particular, if the lymph node is also very hard, irregular, difficult to move in the tissue and not painful, it could be a degenerate lymph node.

Read more on the topic Lymph node cancer

The doctor will also palpate the lymph node and then examine it with the ultrasound device. This examination can provide further evidence of a benign or malignant condition of the lymph node. If there is a corresponding suspicion, a tissue sample (biopsy) and examined under the microscope.

Bilateral lymph node swelling

It is often the case that if the cause is harmless, the lymph node swelling is one-sided. This has to do with the fact that it is often caused by local events such as an injury to the right or left arm. Usually only the lymph nodes of the affected arm are swollen. The same is usually the case with a vaccination in one of the two upper arms. In the case of infections, however, bilateral lymph node swellings often occur as the cause is not local but affects the whole body. Lymph node swellings on both sides of the neck are particularly common. They can also occur in the armpit, albeit less often. As always, the same applies here that if there has been swelling on both sides for a long time, if there is no tenderness to pressure and if the surrounding tissue cannot move, a doctor should be consulted who can arrange for further diagnostics if necessary.

Lymph node swelling in the armpit and groin

There are numerous lymph nodes in the armpit and groin. This is where the lymph is filtered. Lymph node swelling can have numerous causes and in many cases is harmless and disappears after a few days. If there is a swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpits, the cause is often the entry of pathogens through a small skin lesion. This can occur, for example, when shaving. The pathogens cause the lymph nodes to swell as they work harder. The lymph nodes with such a harmless cause are usually easy to move against the surrounding tissue and tend to be tender on pressure. The swelling usually disappears after a few days.

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Even with swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin, minor injuries are usually the cause because the pathogens can penetrate.

But there are also numerous infectious diseases that can be accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes. When it comes to diseases of the respiratory tract, the lymph nodes in the neck in particular are often swollen. But groin and armpit lymph nodes can also be affected. A possible triggering infection is, for example, Pfeiffer's glandular fever (Mononucleosis). Lymph node swelling can also occur with tuberculosis (consumption). Furthermore, in the early stages of an HIV disease, i.e. shortly after infection, the lymph nodes may swell and the swelling often lasts for a relatively long period of time.

Further information: Lymph Node Swelling - What Evidence Is There It Is HIV?

If there is a swelling of the lymph nodes over a long period of time, if the lymph node increases in size or if it is difficult to move against the surrounding tissue, this can be an indication of a more serious disease. Numerous cancers come into question here. A suspicious swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit area can be an indicator of a breast disease. Lymph node swelling in the groin area can also indicate the presence of cancer. Lymphomas such as Hodgkin's lymphoma are also very often associated with swelling of the lymph nodes; the cervical lymph nodes are most frequently affected, and less often those of the groin and armpit.

Read more on the topic: Symptoms of lymphoma

Painful swelling of the lymph nodes

A painful swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit usually indicates a current infection. Painful lymph nodes tend to be more of a good sign as they indicate an acute response from the body. With a fresh infection, the lymph nodes swell rapidly within a short period of time, which causes the surrounding tissue to stretch. Since nerve fibers run there, the swelling can be painful.

Malignant lymph node changes often grow rather slowly. The tissue then has time to adapt to the enlargement of the lymph node, which is why degenerated lymph nodes often remain painless. When the acute infection subsides, the swelling of the lymph nodes also subsides and the pain subsides. This usually does not require therapy.

Read more about the topic here: Pain in the lymph nodes in the groin


A Lymph node swelling in the armpit can usually be determined without any problems. The doctor can already notice the swelling when palpating the typical areas. To make sure it is a lymph node, a Ultrasound examination be made. The doctor can also determine the size of the lymph node.
As enlarged this applies if it has a diameter about an inch having.

The doctor can also get information as to whether the lymph node is more likely to be benign or malignant by looking at how the lymph node is located Ultrasonic represents.
Benign Lymph node enlargements are more likely to be seen on ultrasound elongated or oval are of a uniform structure and are not firmly attached to the surrounding tissue.
Vicious Lymph nodes are common irregularly shaped, balled and firmly bonded to surrounding structures.
Are there any indications of a malignant swelling of the lymph nodes before, the lymph node should be removed or biopsied. To do this, a sample is taken from the lymph node and examined under the microscope. This examination can then finally clarify whether there is a malignant cause.
In an emergency, further diagnostics follow in order to identify possible primary tumors that have spread to the armpit (X-ray, computer tomography, magnetic resonance tomography).


Lymph node swelling in the armpit are usually not treated, as the swelling will go away on its own once the cause is removed. If it is an infectious disease, the swelling of the lymph nodes indicates the activity of the immune system. Once the infection has been fought, the swelling will also recede.

Malignant diseasesn those that develop in the lymph node itself or through other tumorous diseases such as breast cancer are treated depending on the underlying cause. In certain cases, surgery and / or chemotherapy and / or radiation may be indicated. The exact treatment mechanism always depends specifically on the disease and can only be from one Specialist be determined.


In homeopathy, Schüssler's salts are particularly recommended for lymph node swelling. Potassium chloratum and sodium phosphoricum, among others, come into question here. However, if the lymph nodes swell over a long period of time, a doctor should always be consulted. Homeopathic remedies can alleviate the symptoms but cannot treat the cause.

Home remedies

There are various home remedies that can be used to relieve the symptoms of swollen lymph nodes. One possibility is the application of heat. Warm compresses can be used for this, for example. To do this, dip a washcloth in the warm water, wring it out and place it on the affected area. Heat application using a warm cherry stone pillow or a lukewarm hot water bottle is also an option.

Furthermore, some people find a gentle massage of the affected lymph nodes as relief. To do this, rub the affected area with a little massage oil or something similar and massage in gently. Castor oil is particularly suitable as an oil because it is said to have an anti-inflammatory effect.

Further measures that can be helpful, warm teas several times a day, avoiding nicotine, alcohol and avoiding stress. The techniques of massage application and heat therapy should not be used in the case of lymph node swelling as part of a malignant disease or should be consulted with the treating oncologist (cancer doctor) beforehand.

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Duration of lymph node swelling

The duration of lymph node swelling, both in the armpits and in other areas, depends heavily on the triggering cause. Swelling that occurs as part of an infection should subside after a few days. If the swelling occurs after an injury, the swelling can also last for a few days. It first increases and then decreases again.

Reasons that speak in favor of promptly consulting a doctor in order to rule out diagnoses that require treatment are the following: Lymph node swelling that persists over a long period of time (several weeks); Lymph nodes that are baked to the surrounding tissue, i.e. cannot be moved very much; Lymph nodes that are not tender.


The forecast a swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit Well. Usually it is just one swelling caused by infectionwhich regresses as the infection subsides. Usually this doesn't take much longer than 2-3 weeks. Sometimes the lymph nodes can stay enlarged significantly longer or even permanently, especially if a history of many infections has occurred. In this case, over time, one comes to be Increase in connective tissue (Fibrosis) in the lymph node, which is why it remains enlarged.

At malignant lymph node swelling the prognosis depends on the success of the therapy for the underlying disease.


There are no targeted prophylaxisto avoid swelling of the lymph nodes in the armpit. General measures that protect against infectious diseases also reduce the frequency of lymph node swellings, as these are associated with infections.
A healthy and balanced diet, adequate exercise and hydration, as well as one regular daily rhythm with periods of rest have a positive effect on the state of health.

Especially in the cold months, one should good hand hygiene respected and close contact with sick people should be avoided as far as possible. Since infection cannot always be avoided, lymph node swelling can still occur.

Can also be used for malignant swelling of the lymph nodes in the context of cancer no targeted prophylaxis to be hit. Regular Medical checkupsIn an emergency, however, n at the doctor's can enable early detection.

Which doctor treats lymph node swelling?

Treatment for lymph node swelling depends on the underlying cause.

Most forms of lymph node swelling can be adequately diagnosed and treated by a general practitioner or internist. For children, the pediatrician is typically the first point of contact. However, if a rare malignant disease is suspected, after an initial diagnostic investigation, further treatment by an oncologist or hematologist, and in the case of diseases of the breast, also by a gynecologist.