Lymph nodes function is to filter bacteria and viruses in the body. There are hundreds of lymph nodes that are located throughout the body with the most commonly noticed ones located underneath the arms, in the neck, and in the groin.

Generally, the nodes don’t get attention until there is pain and swelling because when there are no health issues they quietly filter the lymph that is circulated throughout the body. Lymph provides nourishment to cells and also removes pathogens and debris as it travels through the lymph system.

When lymph nodes are painful it may be a sign that there is some type of infection in the body that they are trying to fight. A healthcare professional may need to examine the nodes depending on the severity of the illness or disease that is causing the painful lymph nodes. If there are troubling symptoms accompanying the discomfort or even a “gut feeling” that sensitive nodes need to be checked, a physician should be contacted.


Only a healthcare professional can determine the true cause of a swollen painful lymph node, but the following can be used to help recognize common causes of why there is pain and/or swelling:

  • Size – check to see if the lymph node is swollen, commonly a node is bean size and they should be less than 1 inch in size when functioning properly
  • Time – note if the lymph node pain appeared suddenly and if it was after an injury
  • Medical history – review recent medical records because there are some medications like the anti-epilepsy drug Phenytoin, may cause painful, swollen lymph nodes and the vaccine for typhoid fever can also cause swelling and discomfort
  • Return to normal – the node should return to its normal size within two weeks, which is the average time it takes for a virus or infection to run its course

If there is flu, cold, allergy, chickenpox, abscess, or another type of infection when the illness is gone, the nodes should return to the size of a bean. Knowing the types of lymph nodes that need to be examined by a physician is important. When the cause is a serious medical condition or cancer prompt diagnosis and treatment will increase the survival rate.

Signs That a Lymph Node Needs to be Examined

Swollen lymph nodes can be a symptom of a long list of health issues that only a healthcare professional can verify. Here are some signs that the nodes may be a symptom of a health condition that needs medical attention:

  • Touch – feel the lymph node to see whether it is soft (it will give when touched) or hard. If it is hard and fixed it could be that they are losing a battle with some type of an infection
  • Size – a rough measurement of the node results in discovering the node being about 1 inch in size could signal there may be a serious infection or disease
  • Color – look at the color of the skin above the lymph node and if it is either a pink or red it could indicate an infection that is not under the control
  • Other symptoms – note any additional symptoms like fever, weight loss, fatigue, difficulty breathing, and night sweats

These conditions may be an indication of serious illnesses like lymphoma, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted disease, or Cat Scratch Fever. In such cases, a healthcare professional should examine the nodes.

Relieving the Pain When the Nodes Swollen

While the infection runs its course or waiting for treatment to be effective the pain from swollen nodes can be relieved. Over the counter pain medications, warm compresses, and loose clothing can relieve some of the discomforts.


Getting adequate rest and eating healthy will help the body to recover from the health condition that caused the enlarged, painful lymph node. Plenty of fluids are also important to fast recovery. Now if you ever have a painful lymph node, perform our self-check to determine if your node needs to be examined by a healthcare professional.