Can lymph nodes swell from stress? (Yes or No?)

Can lymph nodes swell from stress? (Yes or No?)

Swollen lymph nodes, medically termed lymphadenopathy, is often a cause for concern for most people who experience this symptom. Most of the time, the cause is not a serious illness, but a common cold, flu or a dental infection. Sometimes, however, when other symptoms appear, more serious conditions can be to blame.

Find out below what the lymph nodes are, whether can lymph nodes swell from stress, what causes their inflammation and what other symptoms you may experience, but also the methods by which you can relieve the pain!

Can lymph nodes swell from stress? (Yes or No?)

Can lymph nodes swell from stress?

Yes, your lymph nodes can swell from stress, especially because of the lack of adequate and complete nutrition and the lack of rest that usually comes with high stress.

The lymph nodes can become inflamed from many causes. They are very sensitive to any change and sometimes their inflammation may be due to the fact that our immune system has not recovered from a previous disease.

It is very possible that at some point in our life we ​​have experienced inflammation of the lymph nodes. Certain infections or a drop in defences can be the cause. Even so, we recommend going to the doctor to assess what this inflammation is due and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Those lumps that sometimes appear a little inflamed, especially in the neck and armpits, when, for example, we catch a cold, are the lymph nodes. They are essential for our body since they promote the immune response and act as filters for tissue fluid (lymph). The lymph nodes are distributed throughout our body, forming a kind of cluster around the neck, armpits, chest, abdomen and groin.

If you ever notice swelling, remember that in most cases it is due to normal body defence functions. However, we recommend you go to a specialist if this worries you.

Below we explain the functions of the nodes and the cause of their inflammation.

What function do the lymph nodes have?

Lymph nodes are different in size and shape depending on where they are in the body. In general terms, we could say that the lymph nodes fulfil the following functions:

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  • They filter lymph from foreign and harmful substances, such as bacteria, and destroy them.
  • They produce white blood cells, such as lymphocytes and plasma cells, responsible for destroying foreign substances.
  • They defend our immune system.

Why do the lymph nodes get swollen?

Lymph nodes can become inflamed from many causes. As their main function is to protect our immune system, they are very sensitive to any change. In general, inflammation of the lymph nodes is the result of an infection. However, its origin may be more severe. The specialist should be who determines it.

Some of the possible causes of this inflammation can be:

  • Normal infections caused by colds, flu, tonsillitis
  • Stress, poor sleep, poor diet, lack of nutrients
  • Specific bacterial infections: syphilis, tuberculosis, salmonellosis
  • Specific infections related to the immune system such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Viral diseases like rubella or measles
  • Infections with other pathogens such as malaria, leishmaniasis
  • Inflammation of the lymph nodes due to the intake of certain medications has also been described in some cases.

Lymph nodes can sometimes become inflamed due to lymphomas, tumour diseases that affect lymphocytes. While it is true that the word “tumour” may be scary, in many cases they are treatable and curable diseases. This is why we recommend that any changes or symptoms of inflammation are always exposed to medical supervision.

Can lymph nodes swell from stress? (Yes or No?)

First evaluations of the lymph nodes

It will be your doctor who must make a diagnosis and will tell you about the measures to take. However, as a general rule some of the following aspects are usually considered:

  • Have you had a cold or the flu?
  • Where do you have the swollen node? Neck, armpit, groin?
  • When did you start noticing? Was it suddenly or did it grow little by little?
  • Do you feel pain?
  • Have you had previous illnesses?
  • Do you take medicine?
  • Have you recently travelled?
  • Have you lost weight?

Some of these questions, in addition to feeling the area and making an initial visual assessment, will allow the doctor to make the first diagnosis. Let’s not forget that in many cases, swollen nodes are the result of previous diseases and our immune system has not yet recovered. With our help and relevant tests, the doctor will be able to detect the cause of the inflammation and offer the indicated treatment.

Data to take into account

Most of the swollen glands are located in the neck and their origin is almost always due to infections of the neck, ear or mouth. These are not overly important. However, it is necessary to control that its size is not excessively large.

Also remember that when swollen lymph nodes appear in the clavicle area, you should immediately go to a specialist, since it is not a frequent area and may be a symptom of a more serious disease.

Enlarged lymph nodes and cancer

Swelling of the lymph nodes can occasionally be caused by cancer, but lymphadenopathy is more likely to be caused by an infection. In rare cases, swollen lymph nodes may be a sign of:

  • Lymphoma – this is a type of cancer that originates in the lymphatic system or in a lymph node.
  • Leukaemia – this is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, which can also affect the lymphatic system.
Can lymph nodes swell from stress? (Yes or No?)

How to treat enlarged lymph nodes

The doctor does not treat the swollen lymph nodes, but the basic condition that causes them to swell. If the nodules are caused by a mild infection or cold, here are some tips to relieve pain:

  • heat – put a warm compress, such as a warm cloth, on the affected area;
  • use refreshing compresses – sometimes the heat can irritate sensitive skin or inflamed parts of the body; a cooling compress can help relieve inflammation;
  • pain medications – ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen can relieve discomfort;
  • rest – rest can help you recover as soon as possible.

How to prevent problems and take care of our lymph nodes

One of the keys to preventing, to the extent possible, inflammation of the lymph nodes, is, without a doubt, strengthening our immune system. For this, we recommend consuming foods rich in:

Vitamin C – Essential for the immune system; It fights infection, viruses, protects our cells, etc. You can find it in citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, mangoes, tomatoes, etc.

Vitamin E – Among its multiple benefits, its antioxidant power and its direct benefit on red blood cells stand out. It is present in most green leafy fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli and spinach, in nuts, in some seeds such as soy and sesame, and in the egg yolk, among others.

Beta carotene – They are an excellent source of vitamin A and antioxidants, they fight free radicals and strengthen our defences. We will find them in carrots, corn, watermelon, cabbage, beets, squash, asparagus, apricots …

Selenium and zinc – These minerals help the body make more protein and have a direct benefit on the immune system. What products contain selenium and zinc? It is very simple: whole grains, Brazil nuts, the vast majority of nuts, oats, shellfish, soybeans, etc.

Either way, if you have had or think you may have swollen lymph nodes, you should go to a specialist and the professional will be able to determine which diet is best for you.

FAQ on Can lymph nodes swell from stress

Can lymph nodes swell for no reason?

Lymph nodes don’t usually get swollen for no reason. If you notice that your lymph nodes are swollen, it is a sign that your body is probably fighting an infection or illness. 

Does stress cause enlarged lymph nodes?

Yes, stress can cause enlarged lymph nodes, among other causes like infections or various illnesses. But stress, poor sleep, poor diet, lack of nutrients are among the most common causes of enlarged lymph nodes. 

When should you worry about a swollen lymph node?

You should worry about a swollen lymph node if it appears apparently for no reason if it gets swollen often enough to raise some questions, especially if it is accompanied by other symptoms. 

What causes lymph nodes to swell?

Lymph nodes can become swollen from many causes. As their main function is to protect our immune system, they are very sensitive to any change. In general, inflammation of the lymph nodes is the result of an infection. However, its origin may be more severe. The specialist should be who determines it.

How do you calm swollen lymph nodes?

If the nodules are caused by a mild infection or cold, here are some tips to relieve pain:

  • heat – put a warm compress, such as a warm cloth, on the affected area;
  • use refreshing compresses – sometimes the heat can irritate sensitive skin or inflamed parts of the body; a cooling compress can help relieve inflammation;
  • pain medications – ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen can relieve discomfort;
  • rest – rest can help you recover as soon as possible.

Can lymph nodes stay enlarged permanently?

Although it is not common, some lymph nodes can stay enlarged permanently, following an infection. You should ask a specialist for advice and to rule out other conditions.

Conclusions

In this article, you learned what the lymph nodes are, whether can lymph nodes swell from stress, what causes their inflammation and what other symptoms you may experience, but also the methods by which you can relieve the pain caused by swollen lymph nodes. 

In conclusion, lymph nodes can become inflamed from many causes. As their main function is to protect our immune system, they are very sensitive to any change. In general, inflammation of the lymph nodes is the result of an infection. However, its origin may be more severe. The specialist should be who determines it.

If you have any questions on the content, please let us know!

References

Mayo Clinic – Swollen lymph nodes

Calm Clinic – Stop Swollen Lymph Nodes Caused by Anxiety

MedicineNet – Swollen Lymph Nodes (Glands): In Neck, Groin, Armpits & Throat

Can lymph nodes swell from stress? (Yes or No?)

Nadejda Romanciuc

Nadejda Romanciuc holds a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and a diploma in Addiction studies. She is part of the Romanian Association of Integrative Psychotherapy as a psychotherapist under supervision. She's practicing online counselling for over two years and is a strong advocate for mental health.