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Chronic Lymphadenitis
(Lymph Node Infection, Lymph Gland Infection, Lymph Node Inflammation, Lymph Gland Inflammation)

Definition:
Chronic lymphadenitis is the inflammation of a lymph node. The inflammation can last for a prolonged period of time. Lymph nodes are part of the immune system. This system fights and prevents infections. The lymph node’s job is to filter out unwanted substances, such as bacteria and viruses, and help eliminate them from the body.

Lymph nodes occur in clusters in the neck, arm pits, and groin. Chronic lymphadenitis may affect one node, several nodes in one area (regional), or nodes in many areas of the body (general).

The sooner chronic lymphadenitis is treated, the more favorable the outcome. If you suspect you have this condition, contact your doctor immediately.

Causes:
Lymph nodes normally swell when fighting off an infection. In cases of more serious infection, the swelling may be prolonged. Lymphadenitis is usually caused by an infection that has spread to the lymph nodes from a skin, ear, nose, or eye infection. Other causes of lymphadenitis include the following:

  • Infection with streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria
  • Bacterial sore throat
  • Tonsillitis
  • Dental infection
  • HIV infection
  • Tuberculosis
  • Nontuberculosis mycobacterial disease
  • Tularemia (rabbit fever)
  • Plague
  • Cat-scratch disease
  • Primary or secondary syphilis
  • Lymphogranuloma venereum
  • Chancroid
  • Genital herpes
  • Mononucleosis
  • Cytomegalovirus infection
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Brucellosis
  • Disseminated histoplasmosis

Lymph node inflammation may also be caused by circulating cancer cells.

Risk Factors:
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.

The following factors increase your chances of developing chronic lymphadenitis. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:

  • The conditions listed under “Causes”
  • Close contact with someone who has one of the conditions listed under “Causes”
  • Age: 12 or younger; chronic lymphadenitis commonly occurs in children
  • Contact with animals, specifically cats, rats, or cows
Symptoms:
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to chronic lymphadenitis. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.

Symptoms include:

  • Swollen, painful, tender, or hard lymph nodes
  • The skin over a node is red and warm to the touch
  • Fever with the following Symptoms:
    • Chills
    • Loss of appetite
    • Heavy perspiration
    • Rapid pulse
    • General weakness
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Neck stiffness
Diagnosis:
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.

Tests may include the following:

  • White Blood Cell (WBC) Count–done with a blood sample; WBCs help fight infection and levels will be high if you have an infection
  • Blood Culture–testing of a sample of blood to look for bacteria or fungus
  • Biopsy of the Lymph Node–removal of a sample of lymph node tissue for testing
  • Ultrasound–a test that uses sound waves to examine your lymph nodes
Treatment:
Treatment of chronic lymphadenitis depends on the cause. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include the following:

Medications

  • Antibiotics to control an infection
  • Anti-inflammatory medications may help reduce inflammation and swelling. Aspirin may be recommended for adults.
    • Aspirin is not recommended for children with a current or recent viral infection. Check with your doctor before giving a child aspirin.

Supportive Care–hot, moist compresses on the lymph nodes can help relieve pain.

Surgery–necessary to drain abscesses (pockets of pus), if they occur.

Prevention:
To help reduce your chances of getting chronic lymphadenitis, take the following steps:
  • Seek prompt treatment of bacterial and viral infections. Contact your doctor at the first signs of infection (fever, chills, redness).
  • Take steps to prevent getting an infection:
    • Practice good hygiene practices, such as washing your hands regularly.
    • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
    • Eat a healthful diet, one that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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