The Less Famous Siblings…

A swollen lymph node can instantly inspire fears of cancer, treatment, and death. These are the causes that get the most attention in the family of causes that are responsible for the swelling. Cancer is most famous of its siblings… with the sister being an infection and the brother being an injury. The latter two don’t get as much attention when it comes to being responsible for swelling. Normally they will swell up when they are battling an infection in the nearby region. After the battle is over in that location, they will return to their normal size. When they don’t return to their normal size it can be a sign of a more serious cause for the swelling.

Only a health care professional can determine if the lymph nodes are able to battle the pathogens, debris, or injury on its own. If they can’t, treatment of the underlying cause will be necessary. When they are losing the battle it can result in a life-threatening health condition so often self-treatment will not be an option.

Generally, a swollen lymph node can be felt in the following places:

The “A” List of Causes For Swelling

Cancer is a rare cause of swollen lymph nodes so when a group of them aren’t acting “normally” it is a good indication that an appointment with your primary doctor will be ideal to get them checked. There are many different kinds of cancer that will cause them to swell including lymphoma and breast cancer. Below are some of the more severe reasons for the swelling:

The “B” List of Causes For Swelling

The most common cause of swollen lymph nodes is an infection in the body from bacteria or a virus. Injury and medications can also be the cause of the swelling. When this occurs, it commonly only lasts a couple of weeks. They should return to their original size after the infection ran its course without treatment or after successful treatment for the infection that was causing the swelling. Each region of the body has its own set of nodes (Swollen lymph nodes: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia Icon: External Link) that will filter the fluid that travels through the body. These are some of the possible causes of swelling:

One of the medications that can cause swelling is Phenytoin (Phenytoin, Dilantin: Drug Facts, Side Effects, and Dosing Icon: External Link), which is also known as Dilantin, Dilantin Infatabs, Dilantin-125, Phenytek, Dilantin Kapseals, Phenytoin Sodium, Prompt, and Di-Phen. A typhoid immunization injection can also be a cause.

Can Antibiotics Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes?

Can Antibiotics Cause Swollen Lymph Nodes? If you have a prescription for any of the following types of antibiotics, it is crucial to examine your lymph nodes regularly for any signs of swelling:

  • Cephalosporin
  • Penicillin
  • Medicines prescribed for typhoid fever
  • Antibiotics prescribed as part of an anti-epilepsy drug regimen such as Phenytoin
  • Sulfonamides

What Are Some of The Symptoms?

The following are a few reasons that the node should be examined:

    • Gut feeling
    • Node is fixed in place
    • Fast-growing
    • Additional symptoms
    • Swelling from no known cause
    • Enlarged for over two weeks
    • Health complications
    • Rubbery nodes

Healthy nodes are the size of a bean but may also resemble buckshot under the skin. It is better to get them checked and find out if a simple infection is a cause than to delay care and find out a serious condition like cancer progressed from a delayed diagnosis. Sometimes a biopsy will be necessary to test for cancer cells.

Shotty Lymph Nodes

Shotty workmanship usually means a job was poorly done. In the case of lymph nodes, when someone refers to shotty it is used to describe a group of lymph nodes that resemble buckshot under the skin.

Since it is not common, it can be cause for concern when this is discovered on the body. The term, which originated in the 19th century, isn’t used as common as it once was. This type of lymph node isn’t noticed until they swell up.

Due to the hardness and the number of them, often they trigger concern of an undiagnosed tumor or lymphoma, but usually, there is no cause for concern.

A Cluster of Buckshot

Repeated infections can cause lymph nodes to become scarred. When this happens the lymph nodes may resemble a cluster of buckshot under the skin. Some cancers and lymphomas can cause repeated swelling of the nodes. Once swollen, they may become enlarged more rapidly the next time there is an infection and cause concern.

To treat this type of lymph node, a doctor will need to first take a medical history, document any other symptoms, and do tests. When necessary the node may need to be removed to do a biopsy to rule out or to diagnose cancer. Shotty lymph nodes may not need any treatment if it is the result of previous infections.

5 Home Remedies To Sooth The Discomfort

A lymph node, which is swollen, can become tender and painful so the following 5 home remedies can be useful in soothing the discomfort.

  1. Adding Warmth: Applying a heating pad after massaging the spot with castor oils, which is a vegetable oil found in the castor bean, can help relieve the pain and possibly lessen the swelling.
  2. Taking Vitamins: By giving your body extra zinc and selenium through supplements, it can boost your immune system.
  3. Pain Medication: Using over-the-counter pain medicine – like aspirin, Tylenol, and ibuprofen – may help the discomfort caused by the swelling.
  4. Honey: With natural qualities in reducing swelling in any area of the body, it can possibly be used to help swollen lymph nodes. Drinking a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of honey could be helpful.
  5. Apple Cider Vinegar: Another natural remedy – similar to honey – drinking two to three spoons of this vinegar in a cup of water three to four times a day could help the pain and swelling.

With un-natural and natural remedies, there are many ways to soothe the uncomfortable feelings; however, if the swelling doesn’t go away in a couple of weeks, it is recommended to contact a health care professional to perform tests to diagnose the reason of the swelling, tenderness, or painfulness.


When the swelling is caused by an infection that wasn’t treated and then ignored, the following complication may perhaps develop:

  • Bacteremia (Bloodstream Infection) – As the name entails, it is the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream. This infection may be responsible for severe consequences to the body’s immune response, causing sepsis and septic shock. Bacteremia is usually diagnosed by a blood culture test.
  • Abscess Development – It is a collection of pus, which has accumulated within a tissue, triggered by an infection. The pus contains white blood cells, bacteria and dead tissues, fluid, or possibly other intruders. Antibiotic and drainage may be necessary to treat the abscess. Without treatment and when vital organs have involved an abscess could cause severe damage to the body.

Biopsy to Determine Stage of Cancer

When cancer is the cause of a Swelling a biopsy will be performed to indicate if it has spread to the lymph nodes or even to other parts of the body. If possible, a biopsy is not done because the only way to do one is to remove the node (lymphadenectomy), which can cause complications and fluid buildup. Sentinel nodes are often removed first to minimize the number of them that are removed. This biopsy can be instrumental in properly staging and treating cancer. Fortunately, most swelling is not caused by cancer.

When To See The Doctor

In everyday life, the hundreds of lymph nodes are unnoticed as they perform their job of filtering the lymph fluid throughout the body. With some nodes under muscle and tissues in the body and some are closer to the surface of the skin. The latter are more noticeable when they are swollen. Some of the signs that they should be examined by a medical professional include the following:

  • Hard
  • Fixed position
  • Tender to touch
  • Rapidly increases in size
  • The skin on or around is red and inflamed

Additional signs of a serious medical condition are unexplained weight loss, flu-like symptoms, persistent fever, night sweats, and difficulty swallowing. If any of these signs last longer than 1-2 weeks, contact your doctor and schedule an appointment.


Only a healthcare professional can properly diagnose the cause of the swelling, enlargement, or tenderness. Now you can use your knowledge of knowing the “A” and “B” List of causes to distinguish the possible reasons for the swelling. We all know, it is better to get a medical exam than to allow a serious illness to go undiagnosed or untreated.