Lymph node infection (lymphadenitis) occurs when the nodes become inflamed and enlarged, usually in response to a bacterial, viral or fungal infection in the body. Specific nodes may swell if located near an infection, such as nodes in the neck responding to a strep throat.
The body's lymph system produces and moves lymph fluid from tissues to the bloodstream. The lymph nodes, or glands, filter this fluid, which contains white blood cells that fight infection.
Lymphadenitis is often seen in conjunction with streptococcal bacterial infections, genital herpes outbreaks, mononucleosis, skin infections, eye infections, tuberculosis and syphilis.
Lymph node infection has symptoms of swollen, tender, painful or hard nodes. The skin over the nodes may become red and inflamed, and even develop abscesses.
Treatment includes medication to eliminate the underlying infection. This may include antibiotics or anti-fungal drugs. Anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed, and cool compresses can be used to reduce swelling and pain.
Severe cases of lymph node infection may require minor surgery to drain skin abscesses, and swelling may take months to completely disappear.