However, many other cancers may also cause this problem.
Certain medications can cause swollen lymph nodes, including:
Seizure medicines such as phenytoin
Which lymph nodes are swollen depends on the cause and the body parts involved. Swollen lymph nodes that appear suddenly and are pain are usually due to injury or infection. Slow, painless swelling may be due to cancer or a tumor.
Painful lymph nodes are generally a sign that your body is fighting an infection. The soreness usually goes away in a couple days, without treatment. The lymph node may not return to its normal size for several weeks.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your doctor or nurse if:
Your lymph nodes do not get smaller after several weeks or continue to get larger.
They are red and tender.
They feel hard, irregular, or fixed in place.
You have fever, night sweats, or unexplained weight loss.
Any node in a child is larger than 1 centimeter (a little less than 1/2 inch) in diameter.
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Your doctor or nurse will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms, such as:
Which nodes are affected?
Is the swelling the same on both sides?
When did the swelling begin?
How long has it lasted (how many months or weeks)?
Did it begin suddenly or did it develop gradually?
Is the swelling increasing in size?
Are the number of nodes that are swollen increasing?
Are any of the swollen nodes painful or tender when you gently press on them?
Armitage JO. Approach to the patient with lymphadenopathy and splenomegaly. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 171.
Tower RL, Camitta BM. Lymphadenopathy. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 484.
Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.