With the winter season here, many of us start thinking more about our immune systems and how to fight off sicknesses. In this regard, an important part of the body to learn about is the lymph nodes, which are part of the body’s immune system and aid in fighting infection and filtering out water products. However, we often don’t give our lymph nodes a second thought until they swell up.
So, why do lymph nodes swell, and how can we listen to and take the best care of the lymph nodes in our bodies?
Understanding Lymph Nodes
Only about the size of a pea, lymph nodes exist in various body parts, including the neck, armpits, and groin. Lymph nodes are comprised of cells designed to fight infections, and there are hundreds of lymph nodes in the body. The role of lymph nodes is to filter out substances in the fluid that drains from the body’s tissues and cells. This fluid may contain nutrients, minerals, proteins, fats, white blood cells, bacteria, viruses, and cancer cells.
They work closely with the immune system to prevent illness, infection, and disease. They also work with the body’s lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system, to maintain healthy fluid levels, remove waste from cells, and absorb fats and nutrients.
Why Do Lymph Nodes Swell?
Lymph node swelling is a sign of the body fighting off an illness or infection. It is a natural response in the body and necessary for normal bodily functioning. Strep throat and wound infections can make the lymph nodes well. However, serious medical conditions can also affect this part of the body, such as lymphoma, HIV, Kikuchi’s disease, and Castleman disease. When your lymph nodes swell, you may also experience pain and tenderness in that area of the body, fever, sore throat, runny nose, and night sweating.
Treating Lymph Node Conditions
Most minor lymph node conditions will go away on their own as the body successfully fights an infection. Medical professionals may conduct CT scans, PET scans, x-rays, and complete blood count tests to check for lymph node abnormalities. Based on the findings, they may recommend antibiotics, immunotherapy, disease-specific medications, or even surgery.
However, you can take good care of your lymph nodes for improved overall health by practicing good daily habits and caring for wounds promptly to prevent infections. These daily habits include staying hydrated, eating a well-balanced diet, avoiding toxic chemicals, and getting plenty of sleep. Pay attention to how your lymph nodes feel when you start feeling run down, and promptly start taking it easy with extra rest and fluids so that other symptoms don’t appear or are minimal.