Have you ever wondered what your lymph nodes are and what they do?

Posted in , , , by Miss Kornelija Dedelaite

As an integral component of your immune system, your lymph nodes are always on the lookout for risks to your health.

What knowledge do you have about lymph nodes, is a question that you may not have been asked recently.

Should you respond with “not much,” you’re not the only one. Though our lymph nodes remain hidden, they are constantly battling anything from ordinary viruses to deadly germs to cancer and other potential health issues.

Continue reading to find out more about these immune system workhorses as they defend our bodies from rogue elements and external invaders.

What are lymph nodes?

One component of the immune system that aids in protecting the body from hazards to health is your lymph nodes. Throughout the body, these pea-sized, bean-shaped mounds of tissue form a network of clusters. They filter the white-yellow fluid called lymphatic fluid (lymph), which comes from the blood.

There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the human body. The neck, armpits, and groin are where they are most common and prominent. They are also widely distributed throughout the chest and abdomen, where imaging studies like CT or MRI scans can detect them.

Although it’s not entirely correct, lymph nodes are occasionally referred to as glands (e.g., “I had swollen glands in my neck when I had mononucleosis”). Hormones and other compounds produced by glands like the thyroid gland have an impact on other parts of the body. It is not the function of lymph nodes.

How does lymph reach our lymph nodes?

The liquid component of blood, known as plasma, is formed when it leaks from microscopic blood vessels into the tubes that connect lymph nodes all throughout the body. The lymphatic drainage system is the term for these interconnecting channels.

Lymph finally returns to the bloodstream via lymphatic pathways after travelling via lymph nodes.

What do lymph nodes do?

Our lymph nodes search the lymphatic fluid for pathogens or other possible disease initiators. White blood cells known as lymphocytes and other immune cells within the lymph nodes seek out and attempt to eradicate any threats they may find.

Your lymph nodes’ primary duties are:

Identifying and eliminating infectious organisms removing aberrant cells, including cancer cells and precancerous cells deleting damaged cells or cell products that might cause illness.

Is swelling and pain in the lymph nodes normal?

When lymph nodes are functioning normally, they should swell and feel sensitive, particularly in response to an infection. These sensitive lymph nodes can swell to the size of grapes and hurt to the touch. However, it is simply a temporary situation; as soon as the infection goes away, things should get back to normal.

The lymph node enlargement is restricted to the area of the body that is close to the localised illness, such as a sore throat or skin infection. However, lymph node growth may be more extensive in cases of systemic illnesses like HIV or mononucleosis.

Can disease begin in lymph nodes?

Even while lymph nodes often support the immune system, illnesses can originate there.

One kind of cancer that starts in the lymph nodes or other lymphatic tissue in the body (such as the spleen, the intestinal system, or the bone marrow) is called lymphoma. Lymph nodes can also be affected by uncommon inflammatory diseases; Castleman disease and Kikuchi disease are two examples.

The lymphatic system may be impacted by infections. An excellent example is lymphatic filariasis, a parasitic illness transmitted by mosquitoes.

What would it be like if we didn’t have lymph nodes?

Since lymph nodes are crucial to the body’s immune system, their absence would probably result in more frequent and protracted infections. Furthermore, an infection that would often be limited to a single area of the body may spread more quickly.

It may seem strange that lymph nodes are removed so frequently given all the ways they keep us healthy. To find out if a lymph node is malignant or if a recently discovered malignancy (like breast cancer) has progressed to the lymph nodes, one or more lymph nodes may be removed. However, since humans have hundreds of lymph nodes, it is unlikely that immune function issues will arise from this type of excision.

Surgery on lymph nodes can occasionally affect lymphatic outflow. Neighbouring tissues may see an accumulation of fluid when this happens. A consequence may be lymphedema, or persistent swelling.

You can take numerous steps to keep your immune system strong and your health in check, such as eating a balanced diet, exercising frequently, quitting smoking, and other measures, but you are unable to take care of yourself in the same way that your lymph nodes do.

What can you do to check if you have problems with your lymph nodes?

Your doctor may require the following to determine the possible cause of your enlarged lymph nodes:

  • Your medical background. Your doctor would want to know if you have any additional symptoms or indicators in addition to the date and manner in which your swollen lymph nodes appeared.
  • Blood tests. Blood tests are your first line of defence as they can indicate any initial issues that could present in your lymph nodes. Certain blood tests could assist in confirming or ruling out any possible underlying medical issues. Depending on the suspected reason, different tests may be required, although a complete blood count (CBC) will probably be one of them. This test assesses your general health and looks for a number of illnesses, such as leukaemia and infections.
  • A physical examination. In addition, your physician will want to examine the size, texture, warmth, and tenderness of the lymph nodes that are close to the skin’s surface. The location of your enlarged lymph nodes, along with your other indications, will provide hints about the underlying reason.
  • Imaging scans. To identify tumours or identify possible sources of infection, a computerised tomography (CT) scan of the afflicted area or a chest X-ray may be helpful.
  • Biopsy of a lymph node. In order to confirm the diagnosis, your doctor can want to get a biopsy. For microscopic analysis, he or she will extract a sample—or maybe the entire lymph node—from the lymph node.

Your health with Echelon Health

In light of your lymph nodes being found all over the body, it is important to take care of your health in a holistic way. This is why Echelon Health has created the Platinum Health Assessment.

This is a full-body health check that leaves no stone unturned and works on a case-by-case basis in order to provide results that are personal to you and your circumstances. Combining over 30 years of medical expertise and the use of the most advanced imaging technology available in the world today (through CT, MRI, and ultrasound scanners), along with fully comprehensive blood tests looking at over 40 parameters, including cancer markers, hormones, and more, we can confidently say that we can detect up to 92% and 95% of preventive causes of death among men and women.

Here are the scans included in the Platinum Assessment:

  • Blood Tests
  • ECG
  • CT Aorta
  • CT Heart
  • CT Coronary Angiogram
  • CT Chest
  • CT Pelvis
  • CT Virtual Colonoscopy
  • CT Bone Density
  • EOS
  • CT Upright Skeleton
  • MRI Brain
  • MRI Cerebral Artery Angiogram
  • MRI Carotid Artery Angiogram
  • MRI Prostate
  • Ultrasound Thyroid
  • Ultrasound Testes/Ovaries
  • Digital Mammogram
  • Full-body Mole Screen

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions regarding our assessment or how we may assist you in reaching your best health. Our staff is always happy to help you!