Causes of Lymph Node Swelling


Lymph node swelling is the enlargement of one or more lymph nodes. The lymph nodes are important stations in the lymphatic system for the immune system. In the lymph nodes, so-called lymphocytes - the body's defense cells - are stored and activated when necessary.

Due to their important immunological function, lymph node swelling can occur as soon as the immune system is activated. This can be the case with inflammation, infection, autoimmune diseases and tumors. Typical areas of the body for lymph node swelling are the neck, armpit and groin.

Causes of Lymph Node Swelling

Benign causes



  • Measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox
  • CMV, herpes
  • HIV
  • Glandular Pfeiffer fever


  • tuberculosis
  • syphilis


  • Toxoplasmosis
  • malaria

Local infections (sore throat, skin infection)


Autoimmune Diseases:

  • Sarcoid
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • Lupus erythematosus

Malicious causes


  • Lymphoma
  • Hodgkin's disease
  • leukemia


You can find detailed information on this topic at: Symptoms of lymphoma

Inflammatory reaction in the event of swelling of the lymph nodes

Inflammation is a general characteristic of a process in the body that activates the immune system. Inflammation often occurs as part of infections, but chronic irritation or autoimmune diseases (in which the immune system attacks the own body) can also be the trigger for inflammation.

Classic signs of inflammation are reddening, swelling and overheating of the affected area, pain and functional restrictions in the affected body part can also occur. Since inflammation activates the immune system, swelling of the lymph nodes in the affected area is often associated with the inflammation. As a rule, the swelling of the lymph nodes subsides along with the inflammation. With chronic inflammation, however, the lymph nodes can also be permanently enlarged.


With tonsillitis one speaks classically of the inflammation of the pharynx. The tonsils, like lymph nodes, are so-called lymphoid tissue, which plays an important role in the immune system.In most cases, tonsillitis is caused by bacteria or viruses. Typically, there is also redness and swelling, severe sore throat and difficulty swallowing and possibly hoarseness. In addition, the cervical lymph nodes in particular are often swollen. Since tonsillitis is usually a bilateral disease, the lymph nodes are usually also affected on both sides of the neck.

Additional information: Tonsillitis

Intestinal inflammation

Inflammation of the intestine is an acute illness in many cases. For example, a gastrointestinal infection can lead to inflammation of the digestive tract, which can affect all sections of the intestine. An important part of the body's immune defense takes place in the intestine, as a decision has to be made about the intake of many small components of food. The body should choose between nutrients and harmful pathogens. Therefore, the intestine has a large number of lymph nodes that supply the immune system with the important defense cells. If the bowel is inflamed, these lymph nodes can swell.


Sarcoid is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system begins to attack the body's own cells. The lungs are most commonly affected, but sarcoid can generally occur in any organ. In the course of the disease, the affected organs become inflamed. The long-lasting inflammation in the body permanently activates the immune system. This causes swelling of the lymph nodes. The lymph nodes in the neck, armpit and occasionally those in the groin are often affected. In most cases, lymph node swelling also occurs locally near the affected organ. In addition, there are fever and rashes.

More information about sarcoid can be found here: Sarcoid

Viral infections

Viruses are pathogens that can attach themselves to many parts of the body. They often trigger a simple cold, and a sore throat is often caused by viruses. These acute infections are often accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck. However, diseases of the deeper respiratory tract or the gastrointestinal tract can also be caused by viruses. In these cases, too, there is swelling of the lymph nodes, which are usually located near the affected organ. Some childhood diseases, such as chickenpox, measles and rubella, are also caused by viruses and, in addition to a variety of other symptoms, also cause lymph node swelling.

Glandular Pfeiffer fever

Pfeiffer's glandular fever is caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. In addition to a feverish tonsillitis, it mainly leads to swelling of the lymph nodes. Lymph nodes all over the body can be affected, but a significant swelling of the cervical lymph nodes on both sides is very typical. In addition, in about half of the cases of the disease, the spleen is also affected by swelling, and occasionally there is also swelling and inflammation of the liver.

Read more about the topic on the following page: Glandular Pfeiffer fever

Rubella infection

Rubella is a typical infectious disease caused by viruses in childhood. Typically, there is a small speckled rash first on the face and later on the entire body. In addition, fever often occurs, similar to a mild flu-like infection, and swelling of the lymph nodes occurs. The lymph nodes behind the ear and along the side of the neck are particularly affected, and the spleen can also be enlarged when infected. Prevention against rubella usually takes place in the context of the MMRV vaccination (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella = chickenpox) in early childhood.

More information can be found here: rubella

HIV infection

HIV infection is an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, which can be transmitted sexually and through blood contact. In the first phase, the symptoms are similar to those of flu or glandular fever. However, the virus remains in the body and weakens the immune system over the course of several months, so that it comes to stage 2, in which persistently elevated body temperatures and lymph node swelling can occur. Adequate therapy can stop the disease from progressing for a very long time. Only in the last stage does the disease AIDS, caused by HIV, break out, in which affected people suffer from a multitude of infectious diseases due to their poorly functioning immune system.

Do you have any further questions about HIV infection? Read more about this on the following page: HIV

Bacterial infections

Bacterial infections can also cause lymph node swelling, depending on their location. For example, bacterial tonsillitis causes swelling of the cervical lymph nodes. However, systemic (affecting the entire body) bacterial infections such as tuberculosis can also cause lymph node swelling. In tuberculosis, the lungs are the most commonly affected organ, causing swelling of the lymph nodes in the area. Lymph node swelling also occurs in the case of cat scratch disease, which is caused by the bacterium Bartonella. These are mainly located in the neck and armpit area.

Parasitic Infections


Toxoplasmosis is a parasitic disease that can be caused by contact with cats and the consumption of raw meat. The disease is typically harmless with few to no symptoms. If necessary, there may be a slight fever, headache and tiredness, and the infection can also be accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes. After an infection, affected people are immune to the pathogen for life. Toxoplasmosis infection can be dangerous during pregnancy as it can damage the unborn child. People with immune deficiencies can also suffer from complications from the disease.

Read about it on the following page: Toxoplasmosis



The term leukemia (blood cancer) covers malignant diseases of various blood cells. Depending on the type of leukemia, certain blood cells can no longer be formed in such a way that they fulfill their original function. Since these are often cells that play an important role in the immune system, different stations of the immune system are often affected by the disease. Many of the immune cells are stored in the lymph nodes, which is why leukemia can lead to lymph node swelling. In addition, affected people become particularly susceptible to infectious diseases as the disease progresses.

Do you have any further questions about leukemia? Read more about this at: leukemia

Hodgkin's disease

Hodgkin's disease is a malignant disease of the entire lymphatic system. All lymphatic organs (lymph nodes, tonsils, spleen, etc.) can be affected. Typically, there is a fever and significant (unwanted) weight loss. In addition, there is swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin and in the neck and armpit region. The spleen and liver can also be inflamed and swollen. The treatment is carried out by means of chemotherapy and radiation; the prognosis for Hodgkin's disease is very good under the new therapy variants.

You can find out more about this on the following page: Hodgkin lymphoma


Tumors are diseases in which some cells in the body multiply in an uncontrolled manner. Initially, this cell proliferation takes place in the affected organ, so that a cancerous tumor develops. However, some of the indestructible cells can then also be distributed in the body via the blood or the lymphatic system. They settle in another place and form so-called metastases (settlements) of the original tumor. In the case of lymphogenic metastasis (cancer cells spread through the lymphatic system), many of the cells are filtered out of the lymph by the lymph nodes. This can cause swelling of the lymph nodes. In addition, the cells filtered out begin to multiply in the lymph nodes, so that metastases also develop there.

Breast cancer metastases

Breast cancer is a cancer that predominantly metastasizes lymphogenously (via the lymphatic system). As a rule, metastases are found in the lymph nodes of the armpit region of the affected side. Due to the rapid metastasis, the lymph nodes in the armpit are often also removed during surgical treatment of breast cancer. Irradiation of the lymph nodes on the affected side may also be necessary.