Lymph node swelling in the neck is characteristic of infections in the area of ​​the head. These include middle ear infections and infections of the nasopharynx.
Diseases of the salivary glands, the thyroid and suppurations in the jaw or tooth area can lead to a swelling of the lymph nodes, as they are reactively involved in the immune system.

Most swelling of the lymph nodes in the neck is therefore harmless, only rarely something dangerous behind it.

How dangerous is lymph node swelling in the neck?

Whether a lymph node swelling in the neck is dangerous or not, so depends on the trigger or the cause. Usually a simple infection is triggering, then the swelling is completely harmless and should disappear on its own.

In rare cases, even a malignant disease may be behind a lymph node swelling in the neck. So if the swelling does not occur in connection with an infection, occurs unilaterally or is accompanied by B symptoms, should be clarified by a doctor.


Swollen lymph nodes in the neck can be signs of infection.

The cause of swollen lymph nodes is often an infection, as lymph nodes are part of the body's immune system and thus fend off infections. In the defense against infection, lymph nodes absorb foreign substances and pathogens, such as bacteria from the lymph. Then it comes in response to the formation of antibodies. Overall, this causes a swelling of the lymph nodes.

The infectious disease can be, for example, a harmless cold, tonsillitis or scarlet fever.

But even malignant diseases can lead to lymph node swelling in the neck area. These include lymphoma, a cancer that affects the lymph nodes, especially in the cervical region. One can distinguish between a Hodgkin's and a non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. The disease is accompanied by swelling, fever, weight loss, night sweats and tiredness.

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If a cancer is responsible for the swelling, it does not always have to develop primarily in the lymph node, but can also settle there by metastasis. Metastasis to the cervical lymph nodes is common in lung, thyroid, nasal and stomach cancers. Although tuberculosis has become rare, it can also cause lymph node swelling. The venereal disease Syphillis can also lead to lymph node swelling. In addition to these bacterial diseases, viral disease can also be the cause. These include flu infections, influenza and Pfeiffer's glandular fever, which is triggered by the Epstein-Barr virus. Especially in the neck lymph nodes are usually swollen in inflammation of the neck, in the mouth and inflammation of the parotid glands.

Lymph node swelling in the neck after vaccination

In a vaccine, substances that are very similar to certain pathogens or attenuated pathogens are injected into the body itself. The goal of the vaccine is that the immune system can train the defense against this pathogen, without any risk of infection. Therefore, vaccination is always accompanied by activation of the immune system. One possible consequence of this is lymph node swelling. These often occur in the armpit of the vaccinated arm, also on the neck, jaw, chin and neck lymph node swelling can be caused by the vaccine.

Lymph node swelling due to tension in the neck?

Lymph nodes do not usually swell due to muscle tension.
However, if there are swollen lymph nodes, for example, in the context of an infection, it may well lead to tension in adjacent muscles.
The reason for this is that a swelling lymph node puts pressure on the neck muscles and can lead to an irritation of the muscle. The tension usually disappears at the latest with the swelling of the causative lymph node.
In some people, tensions and lymph node swelling in the neck area have the same cause. For example, they can occur together as part of a cold, inflammation of the neck or even meningitis. In these cases, swollen lymph nodes are signs of the defense reaction to pathogens and usually swell again within 2 weeks after the infection has healed.
Occasionally it may happen that lymph nodes that have been enlarged for a long time become noticeable only as part of a tension in the neck muscles, because more attention is paid to the neck region.


If the lymph nodes are swollen, pressure-sensitive and painful at the same time, this indicates an infectious process. At the same time, an accompanying infection symptom strongly suggests a harmless cause of lymph node swelling.

Swollen lymph nodes in the context of tumors have a firmer consistency and are usually not painful. In Hodgkin's lymphoma, there is a peculiarity, because in this several lymph nodes are fused together and can hurt after the consumption of alcohol. This is called alcohol pain. A tumor disease is often accompanied by the so-called B-symptomatology, which consists of the symptoms of fever, night sweats and weight loss.

As a rule, bilateral lymph node swelling occurs. If swelling occurs on only one side, it is more likely to be suspicious. Therefore, especially if concomitant no infection occurs, a biopsy (removal of tissue) of the lymph node should be taken in order to examine the material microscopically on malignant tissue can.

Infant / Toddler: In children, swelling of lymph nodes is much more common than in adults, as their immune system is not yet so pronounced and they often come into contact with new germs for the first time. If the lymph nodes are swollen over a long period of time, a doctor should be consulted. However, children are rarely responsible for a more serious cause of the swelling.

Lymphadenopathy with neck pain

Neck pain from lymph node swelling is not uncommon and is relatively common.
The reason is often an inflammation of the lymph nodes, which results from the infiltration of pathogens from the bronchi, the neck or the nose. Such inflammations usually last only for a short time, but can be painful especially when pressure is applied. In addition, the sudden increase in size due to pressure on the surrounding tissue can cause pain or a slight muscle tension.
Occasionally, inflammation or infection of the skin in the neck area is the cause of pain and lymph node swelling. In particular, people with acne, immunodeficiency and diabetics are prone to skin infections, which can also occur in the neck area.
In rare cases, the combination of lymph node swelling and neck pain is a sign of meningitis. The neck pain is usually strong and provoked by various movements such as bending over or bending the head. In meningitis, other symptoms such as headache, fever, or paralysis are common.
Mild neck pain can be treated with analgesics such as ibuprofen or diclofenac. If they last longer or become stronger, however, a doctor should be consulted.

Lymph node swelling in the neck with tension

Tension of the neck and neck pain are usually due to muscular problems. In conjunction with a lymph node swelling in the neck, the tensions mainly due to a reflex-like tension of the neck muscles in other concomitant symptoms such as headache. Frequently, the swollen lymph nodes are due to an infectious disease, this causes headaches and tiredness, which can lead to a tension of the neck muscles. In painfully enlarged lymph nodes, the pain can also radiate in the neck and cause pain-like tension.

Lymph node swelling with headache

Swollen lymph nodes are common with colds, flu, or other infectious diseases such as sinusitis, along with headache. Typical of these illnesses are additional symptoms such as cough, sore throat, body aches, rash or runny nose.
In unvaccinated children, headache with simultaneous swelling of the lymph nodes may be the onset of a childhood illness such as rubella or measles. A medical presentation is necessary if the symptoms are very severe or if there is evidence of one of the typical childhood illnesses in order to prevent potentially dangerous illnesses early.
If severe headaches and lymphadenopathy are isolated, they may be the first signs of meningitis.

Lymphadenopathy in the neck with earache

Ear pain can be the cause as well as the consequences of lymph node swelling in the neck. If the ear pain occurs due to an infection of the ear, this can activate the immune system and thus cause lymph node swelling. A cold can also cause earache through the connection between the nasopharynx and the middle ear. Not infrequently, colds and other upper respiratory tract infections are associated with lymphadenopathy. Lymph node swelling in the neck can, however, in principle also cause earache. More precisely, there are lymph nodes just behind the ears. If these are swollen together with the neck lymph nodes, they can lead to ear pain via a local pressure.

Lymphadenopathy with pus

Pus accumulations in the skin are signs of an infection with bacteria such as streptococci or staphylococci.
Skin infections often lead to swelling in adjacent lymph nodes. For example, infections of the neck, head or upper back can cause swollen lymph nodes on the neck.

Most of the pus is in a small cavity, a so-called abscess (neck abscess). He must be removed by a doctor from a certain size to ensure a quick healing.
Purulent infections of the skin, if not properly treated, spread under the skin and lead to life-threatening diseases such as phlegmon. In some cases, pus that can not escape through an opening is mistaken for lymph node swelling.

Painful lymph node swelling in the neck

Pain in swollen lymph nodes in the neck occur relatively frequently and may have various causes.
As a rule, it comes in the context of a cold or other harmless infection to infiltrating pathogens in the lymph nodes. This leads to an inflammatory reaction that can cause pain. In addition, the lymph nodes press on the adjacent tissue due to the swelling and can cause pain or tension. The pain usually lasts only a few days.

Lymphadenopathy in the neck without pain

Non-painful lymph node swelling speak in most cases against an infectious cause of the complaints. Often the swollen lymph nodes are in this case fused with the environment, so they are not displaced against the skin. Especially if it comes to a single painless swollen lymph node, other causes of the swelling should be investigated. Painless lymph nodes tend to be suspicious for tumorous diseases and should be clarified by a doctor.

Lymphadenopathy right or left (one-sided)

Lymph nodes in the neck and neck area can swell in the context of very many and very different diseases. In some of these diseases, lymph nodes in the neck are more affected unilaterally, in others more bilateral.

If they are only swollen on one side, the cause is usually an infection of the respiratory system, the throat or the skin. Lymph nodes are then usually relatively small, soft, painful and can move well under the skin.
Fast and strong, non-painful lymph nodes that are caked with the environment and are only visible on one side should, however, be quickly cleared up, as they can be the first symptom of cancer. Other diseases that cause predominantly unilaterally enlarged lymph nodes are in Germany rare infectious diseases such as tuberculosis or cat disease. These diseases are relevant only after stays abroad. In addition, in unilateral swollen lymph nodes, it is unimportant whether the left or right side is affected.

However, whether lymph nodes in the neck are swollen only on one or both sides, is not always an additional indication of the causative disease. In the majority of cases the causative disease is a harmless viral infection of the throat or throat. These can cause unilateral and bilateral lymph node swelling.
More important in the assessment of the cause in medical practice is therefore not the information which side is affected, but for example, how long the swelling is already ongoing, if affected lymph nodes are painful, other concomitant symptoms exist or what pre-existing.

Bilateral lymph node swelling in the neck

Both sides swollen lymph node swelling in the neck can occur in many diseases. The most frequent causes are infections of the respiratory tract or the throat and throat area, for example by viruses, streptococci or as part of the Pfeiffer glandular fever.
Rarely, swollen lymph nodes in the neck are the first signs of serious illnesses such as HIV infection, various autoimmune diseases or a cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma.
Slight bilateral lymph node swelling is usually not a cause for concern. They are only in need of clarification if the affected lymph nodes grow rapidly, remain swollen for more than 4 weeks or if there are no typical concomitant symptoms such as fever, sore throat or cough.


When looking for the cause of lymph node swelling in the neck, the doctor usually asks first how long the swelling lasts, as well as other symptoms and pre-existing conditions.
During the physical examination, the skin near the lymph nodes is usually inspected first, because skin infections and diseases are common causes of lymph node swelling. In addition, the touch can provide clues to the cause. The size of the lymph nodes, their mobility within the skin, the hernia with other lymph nodes and their pain on pressure indicate whether they are swollen due to an infection, a tumor or other reasons. In most cases the examination is followed by the examination of the oropharynx and possibly of the thyroid gland.
In many cases, a blood test will be used to confirm or rule out suspected infectious diseases such as mononucleosis, rubella, toxoplasmosis or tuberculosis.
If the cause of a long-lasting or otherwise abnormal lymph node swelling is unclear or if other symptoms such as weight loss, night sweats or lymph node swelling in other parts of the body, further diagnostic means must be used to locate the cause. This may include, inter alia, an X-ray of the lungs and the abdomen, ultrasound examinations and computed tomography. In some cases, individual lymph nodes need to be surgically removed to pinpoint the cause and determine how to proceed.

How do you feel a lymph node swelling in the neck?

Lymph node swelling in the neck is often located exactly at the lower edge of the skull bone at the back of the head. The medical term for lymph nodes at the occiput is occipital lymph nodes. At the affected area, one usually feels the swollen lymph node by means of a small "knubbel". This is usually slidable against the skin, the palpation can be both painful and painless. Often a swollen lymph node does not appear on its own, so that further lymph node swelling can be found in the neck or at other places (behind the ears, on the side of the neck, etc.).

Duration of lymph node swelling in the neck

The question of how long lymph nodes remain swollen can not be answered in general. If a lymph node swelling occurs in the neck, for example in the context of a simple cold or an infection of the pharyngeal tonsils, swelling of the lymph nodes will only last a few days in some affected persons. In others, the lymph nodes remain palpable for several weeks and form only slowly.
If lymph node swelling occurs repeatedly in the context of infections, adhesions may develop within the lymph nodes. As a result, the affected lymph nodes remain permanently palpable despite the disappearance of the infection.
It should be noted that the duration of lymph node swelling in the neck can be significantly different in different diseases. For HIV and tuberculosis, they can last for months, while for other infectious diseases they typically last only a few days.
Lymph nodes, which swell as part of a tumor disease or due to metastases, often remain swollen to death or shrink after treatment. Despite the mostly harmless causes palpable lymph nodes, which have not disappeared within 3-4 or noticeably grow, should be presented to a family doctor.


Since the cause of the lymph node swelling is usually not primarily in the lymph node, not the targeted reduction of the swelling is treated, but the underlying disease that usually does not need to be treated in a harmless infection.

In some cases, a bacterial disease is then treated with an antibiotic, which then also reduces the lymph node swelling in the course. If cancer is present, chemotherapy and / or radiotherapy must be used.

More information can be found here : Therapy of a lymphatic cancer


Homeopathic remedies can also be used to combat lymph node swelling. Which agent is used depends on the cause of lymph node swelling. The following are used: Abrotanum, Barium carbonicum and iodatum, Calcium fluoratum and Chimaphila umbellata, Clematis, Jodum and various Mercurius preparations.

When is antibiotics necessary for treatment?

Whether antibiotics are needed for a lymph node swelling on the neck, depends on the causative disease and the severity of the symptoms. Swollen lymph nodes themselves are not a reason for taking antibiotics per se.
Most infections that cause lymph node swelling heal without the support of antibacterial drugs. This usually leads to the swelling of the lymph nodes. Some infections such as a strong tonsillitis, a strong middle ear infection or tuberculosis, however, must be treated with antibiotics.

In rare cases, lymph node swelling, the causes of which, despite extensive diagnostics, remain unknown, are treated with antibiotics because they still cause pain even after several weeks.

Which doctor treats lymph node swelling in the neck?

If lymph node swelling in the neck, if there is no clear trigger for the swelling, the family doctor should first be visited. He is responsible for the treatment of lymph node swelling in the context of colds, infections or even vaccinations. However, if a vaccination by another doctor (for example, gynecologist) is done, one can imagine with this doctor with the lymphadenopathy. If the family doctor can find no explanation for the lymph node swelling in the neck, he usually transfers affected persons initially to a radiologist, who can make an imaging of the affected body region. Depending on the findings, other physicians can then be included in the therapy.

Can my lymph node swelling in my neck be an indication of HIV?

Lymph node swelling around the neck may be the first sign of HIV infection. A special feature of the infection with the HI virus is that lymph nodes can swell in several places at the same time - for example, on the neck, neck, the armpit and the groin. The lymph nodes are often about 3 inches tall and are usually not painful. Common symptoms include cough, fever and body aches.
In particular, if sufferers had sexual intercourse with potentially HIV-positive persons or had used an unsterile syringe shortly before the onset of symptoms, swollen lymph nodes or the simultaneous swelling of several lymph node stations should be clarified to a physician

Lymph node swelling in the neck of the child

Children are more likely to be affected by lymph node swelling than adults. The reason for this is that their immune system is still developing and they are more often affected by infections.
Lymph node swelling is typical, especially in toddlers and school-age children. In most cases, enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck are caused by simple, rapid transient infections. Typical are colds, bronchitis or tonsillitis. Rubella and measles can also be associated with lymph node swelling in the neck.
For parents it is important to keep an eye on the enlarged lymph nodes of the children and to pay attention to concomitant symptoms such as headache, cough, rash and fever. For lymph node enlargements that can not be explained by typical infectious diseases, a consultation with the doctor should be made.
This is particularly the case if the swelling has been present for a very long time, grows unusually fast or is already very large. Possible causes are then, for example, autoimmune diseases and tumors of various kinds. In order to rule out such diseases, at least blood must be taken from the child. Frequently, an ultrasound examination is additionally performed and an X-ray of the head region and the lung is made.

Lymph node swelling in the neck in babies

Lymph node swelling in babies is unlikely to differ from swelling in older children.
They are much more common than in adults, because children have an immature immune system and are therefore more often affected by infections. The most common triggers are also babies and toddlers trivial infections such as a cold or an infection of the skin.
Other, much less common causes are childhood diseases such as rubella and measles, autoimmune diseases, metabolic diseases or tumors such as leukemia.
The parents are advised to observe the lymph node swelling of the child. Within 2 weeks lymph nodes shrink after an infection in babies usually again.

If the lymph nodes are swollen or larger than 2 cm independent of an infection, the pediatrician should be consulted. To clarify the cause, inter alia, blood is taken, carried out an examination with the ultrasound machine and made an X-ray. It is important to tell the doctor how the swelling has changed over time, whether there were more symptoms and all the recommended vaccinations were given.

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