Swelling of lymph nodes is called lymphadenopathy. Lymphatic system is an integral part of immune system in humans. It is a network of vessels and nodes – bean-shaped glands consisting of cells encapsulated in relatively thin connective tissue. Lymph nodes store fluid and produce various types of antibodies, which are carried around the body via lymph vessels.
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The lymph nodes behind the ears may swell and cause a lot of trouble. There are lots of possible causes.
- Most commonly, these lymph nodes enlarge when the body is affected by bacterial/viral infections and fungi. In this case, the enlargement is nothing less than the system’s essential reaction to infection, as the nodes begin to work harder to produce more antibodies and fluid. In this case, you may end up with generalized enlargement, as other nodes may grow bigger as well.
- Not infrequently, these lymph nodes react to infections affecting adjacent areas and organs. It happens when an infection obliterates ears, mouth, tooth areas, eyes, or throat (strep throat). The nodes begin to act as a kind of forward defense line as the body fights with the disease.
- Enlarged lymph nodes may indicate a more serious condition, such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, etc. This is a point for consideration when nodes stay large for more than four weeks or grow larger. In this case, a close examination is required.
- Traumas may cause lymph nodes behind the ears to grow too. As the body tries to recover, it gets the lymphatic system to work harder in just the same way as in case of infection.
- Lymphoma and leukemia are the gravest possible causes of large lymph nodes behind the ear. These are life-threatening conditions, which require intensive care.
What does it feel like?
A swollen lymph node behind the ear can cause a lump, touching or pressing which can be very painful. Particularly, a patient may have difficulty turning his/her head, swallowing, and talking.
In case of lymphadenopathy resulting from a minor cold, the swelling is temporary and not severe. It goes away as you recover from the underlying disorder, or may persist for a little while.
What should I do about it?
The best and only way of dealing with it is using professional help. Turn to your doctor and undergo an examination. As follows from the above, some causes are very serious.
If it happens every time you catch a cold or something like that, there is nothing to worry about. You should sound the alarm, if, apart from swollen lymph nodes, you have:
- Fever and nighttime sweating;
- Weight loss;
- Persistent pain and tenderness behind the ear;
- The node stays large for more than a month and continues to grow;
- The swelling expands to the collarbone, down or around the neck;
- The lump has grown hard.
Also, you may take steps to reduce the pain and inflammation using some home remedies, such as warm compresses, massage, castor oil, garlic, etc. Please, remember that these steps can only bring temporary relief and will not eliminate the cause itself.
Swollen Lymph Nodes (Causes, Locations, Symptoms, Treatments) – Medicinenet.com
Lymph Nodes and Cancer – Cancer.org
Studies of lymph nodes from patients with classical hemophilia – Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov