Adenopathy is the medical term that is commonly used to refer to swollen lymph nodes. Having swollen lymph nodes is a sign of an attack on the body. Adenopathy can thus be seen as a warning signal. They can be related to benign and temporary infections, but can also have more serious causes.
Definition of adenopath
By definition, adenopathy is an abnormality in the lymph nodes. However, this medical term is more often used to refer to adenomegaly, which is a swelling of the lymph nodes. This phenomenon occurs when the body is attacked.
Lymph nodes are small organs that play a key role in the immune system in eliminating pathogens. In particular, lymph nodes are the site of proliferation of lymphocytes, immune cells whose function is to eliminate pathogens. When the lymph nodes swell, the body is dealing with an aggression.
Different types of lymph node disease
An adenopathy may involve only one type of lymph node, or it may occur in several lymph nodes at the same time. In the latter case, it is called polyadenopathy or sometimes generalized adenopathy.
It is important to know that the body has many lymph nodes at different levels. The best known are those in the neck. Generally, they are easily palpable. They are part of the superficial lymph nodes, like those located in the groin and armpits. On the other hand, there are also deep nodes in the chest and abdomen.
In fact, it is also possible to distinguish :
- superficial adenopathies, among which are cervical adenopathy which concerns the nodes of the neck, axillary adenopathy which occurs in the armpits and inguinal adenopathy in the groin ;
- deep adenopathy, such as mediastinal adenopathy, which occurs in the mediastinum of the chest.
Causes of adenopathy
The most common cause is cervical adenopathy, which occurs in the lymph nodes of the neck. It can be caused by :
- an infection of the ENT sphere, such as pharyngitis ;
- an infection of a salivary gland
- a dental abscess;
If the above-mentioned causes are generally benign and temporary, other more serious attacks can be the cause of an adenopathy. There are often two types of adenopathy: infectious adenopathy and cancerous adenopathy.
Infectious adenopathy can be caused by:
- staphylococcal or streptococcal infection;
- cat scratch disease;
- sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as syphilis
- infectious mononucleosis;
Cancerous adenopathies are related to :
- cancer of the lymphatic system, more commonly called lymphoma;
- lymph node metastases, i.e. secondary tumors that may originate from cancers of the ENT sphere, tongue, thyroid, abdomen, pelvis, breast, external genitalia, anal canal or skin.
Diagnosis of adenopathy
Superficial lymph nodes are usually easy to diagnose. The swelling of the superficial lymph nodes is palpable, even visible in the case of cervical adenopathy. During the consultation, the health professional will be interested in the location of the adenopathy and the “consistency” of the nodes. These observations will guide the diagnosis, which will then be supported by the analysis of the perceived symptoms.
Medical examinations may be performed to complete the diagnosis in some cases of superficial lymph nodes, and systematically for deep lymph nodes. Possible examinations include:
- lymph node cytopuncture, a needle aspiration of the lymph nodes;
- A lymph node biopsy, which involves removing and analyzing a lymph node;
- a blood count, which may be performed to confirm infectious lymphadenopathy
- microbiological examinations to identify the germ involved in an infectious adenopathy;
- Imaging tests, especially in the case of deep lymph nodes.
Symptoms of adenopathy
The symptoms of lymphadenopathy are numerous and extremely varied. They depend on the type of adenopathy, and especially on the cause of the swelling of the lymph nodes. However, it is possible to distinguish some typical symptoms of superficial lymph nodes. These are usually characterized by swollen and painful nodes.
Special case of inflammatory adenopathy
Sometimes swollen nodes are accompanied by an inflammatory reaction. Inflammatory lymphadenopathy is then often characterized by a rise in fever.
Treatments for lymph node disease
Swollen lymph nodes have a variety of causes and can be accompanied by different symptoms. Therefore, there are many treatments for lymph node disease. The main goal is to treat the cause of the lymph node disease. For example, the treatment can be based on :
- Antibiotic treatment for infectious adenopathy;
- Anti-inflammatory treatment for inflammatory lymphadenopathy;
- chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy or surgery for cancerous lymphadenopathy.
- There are many possible causes of lymphadenopathy. There are many ways to prevent it. For example, herbal medicine can help prevent certain forms of infectious adenopathy. To learn more, please consult our list of essential oils with anti-infectious properties.