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Swollen glands in the neck are actually swollen lymph glands, which are found in the neck. The lymph glands are a part of the lymphatic system, which is very important for the immune system. While the lymphatic system carries the lymph with essential nutrients through the lymph vessels throughout the body, the lymph nodes have the role to filter the lymph from harmful pathogens such as viruses and bacteria, which are killed by the lymphocytes subsequently. There is a large number of lymphatic glands in the human body and they can be single or they can be formed in groups.

On the other hand, swollen glands in the neck may refer to the enlarged salivary gland, or inflamed and enlarged thyroid gland, since they are also situated in the neck region.

Lymph nodes are oval-shaped organs of immune system, distributed throughout the body and linked by lymphatic vessels. The body has about 600 lymph nodes of which approximately 60–70 nodes are situated in the head and neck region.
  • Any abnormality in the size, consistency, and number of lymph nodes is defined as lymphadenopathy, which is caused by the invasion or propagation of either inflammatory or neoplastic cells into the lymph node.
  • Malignancies, infections, autoimmune disorders, iatrogenic, and miscellaneous conditions are regarded as the causes for cervical lymphadenopathy.
  • Lymphadenopathy in a primary outpatient care setting is typically explained by an identifiable infection or regional injury. The most concern for a physician about the possibility of underlying malignancy is when there is no regional cause for lymphadenopathy.
  • In a primary care set up, the prevalence of malignancy in a patient with unexplained lymphadenopathy is thought to be quite low, as low as 1.1%. However, in referral centers, the prevalence of malignancy is found to be 40%–60%. Lymphomas represent malignant lymphoproliferative diseases, and they are generally classified as Hodgkin's (HL) or non-Hodgkin malignant lymphomas according to a difference in clinical course, site of involvement and histopathology. NHL is considered as the fourth common worldwide malignancy in males with a frequency of 6.1%.
✓ Fact confirmed: Cervical lymphadenopathy: Unwinding the hidden truth Athira Aruna Ramadas, Renju Jose, Beena Varma, and Marina Lazar Chandy; 2017 Jan-Feb

Types of Swollen Glands in Neck

When the swelling appears just beneath the ear and underneath the jaw in the upper part of the neck, then it is the case of the swollen and inflamed salivary gland. On the other side, the swelling that occurs beside Adam’s apple in the lower part of the neck usually indicates swollen thyroid gland.

When the lymph nodes are in question, their swelling can be observed in any place on the neck since they can be found around the ears, below the lower jaw and chin, as well as in the hollow of the collarbone and the nape of the neck.

Causes of Swollen Lymph Glands in Neck

When the lymph glands are swollen, it is the first sign that there is a disease or infection present in the body. Swollen lymph glands in the neck are a common symptom of several medical conditions, such as the common cold, tonsillitis, and sore throat. Furthermore, it is quite common to notice swollen glands in the neck in those people who suffer from injury, some mouth infections, epiglottitis, as well as from ear or skin infections.

Other health conditions that are considered to be responsible for the occurrence of enlarged lymph nodes in the neck are tuberculosis, sinusitis, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, lymphoma, lupus, and syphilis. Mouth and larynx cancer may also cause swollen glands in the neck.

Apart from swelling that can be seen or felt under the touch, several other symptoms go along with the enlargement of the glands, and they are pain, tenderness, and firmness of the glands. It is also possible that the skin that covers the area over the swollen gland turns red.

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