Diagnosing swollen lymph nodes Diagnosing swollen lymph nodes

To determine the potential cause of a swollen lymph node, it is important to be familiar with the tests and exams that doctors may ask for from patients.

The Mayo Clinic in Spain lists some of the things your doctor may need:

  • Your medical history. This helps your doctor know when and how your lymph nodes became swollen and if you have any other signs or symptoms.
  • A physical exam. Your doctor will check the lymph nodes near the surface of your skin to determine their size, whether they are painful when touched, their temperature and their texture. The location of these lymph nodes and other signs and symptoms are clues to identifying the underlying cause.
  • Blood tests. Depending on your doctor’s judgement, certain blood tests may be conducted to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. This is likely to consist of a complete blood count (CBC) which helps assess the general state of your health and detects a variety of disorders such as infections and leukemia.
  • Diagnostic imaging studies. A chest x-ray or a computerized tomography (CT) scan of the affected area may help determine the potential sources of infection or help find tumors.
  • Biopsy. This procedure consists of removing a sample of the lymph node or even an entire lymph node in order to examine them by a microscope.

Swollen lymph nodes caused by viruses may a return to their normal size after the viral infection is cured. The way swollen lymph nodes are treated depends on whether they are caused by a bacterial infection, HIV, an immune disorder or cancer. In any case, specialists are the ones to determine what steps should be taken.

Related article: Swollen lymph nodes: A sign of infection (article in Spanish)