The lymphatic system is an integral part of the vascular system of the human body. It performs a number of functions, participates in metabolic processes, works as a cleansing and protective mechanism. The lymph node system transports proteins and tissue fluid through the subclavian veins from the interstitial space into the blood vessels, and transports fats from the small intestine to the same place. In the space of the lymphatic system circulating fluid - lymph.
Structure and structure of the lymphatic system in the human body
The structure of a multilevel and complex mechanism includes lymphatic vessels - these are cylindrical cavities through which lymph flows, lymph nodes (clusters of small lymphatic tissue located in different places along the body), lymphatic organs - the thymus gland, tonsils and spleen.
In addition, two ducts, the left and the thoracic, that flow into the right and left subclavian veins, are also involved in the system. All these elements are combined with a fluid that circulates through all the cavities - the lymph.
The capillaries of the lymphatic system are tubes that are closed on one side, which together form a network in the tissues and organs of the human body. Capillaries have very thin walls through which proteins, liquid and large particles freely enter the cavities. Due to the nature of the structure of the walls of blood vessels, these elements are not able to penetrate into the vascular cavity through them, and they enter the blood through the capillaries of the lymphatic system.
In turn, the lymphatic vessels are a collection and merging of small capillaries. In fact, they resemble veins in their structure, but have thinner walls. In addition, they have a greater number of valves that regulate the flow of lymph.
Each vessel passes through the corresponding lymph node. All nodes are combined into several groups located along the course of the vessels. The mechanism of movement of the lymph looks like this: a large number of small capillaries carries the lymph into a knot, and from it it goes through several efferent vessels.
The nodes themselves look like tissue formations, shaped like ellipses or beans, less often - tape-shaped, up to 2 centimeters long. In these “beans” the lymph is filtered, during which various foreign inclusions are separated and destroyed. They also produce lymphocytes - cells that make up part of the body's immune system. The vessels emerging from the nodes are connected to the trunks forming the thoracic and right lymphatic ducts.
Through the right duct, the lymph passes from the right hand, the right half of the head and chest to the right subclavian vein. The fluid moves along the thoracic duct from the left upper half of the body to the left subclavian vein. In this way, the lymph travels from the interstitial spaces into the blood.
What are the lymph nodes in the neck
Bean-like and band formations of lymphatic tissues have a pinkish-gray color. In the neck nodes are clusters of up to 10 pieces, near the blood vessels, mainly large veins.
Their surface is represented by connective tissue, which forms a capsule. Trabeculae, also connective tissue - go so-called supporting structures, similar to beams, depart from it inside the knot.
The internal structural basis of the node is the stroma of reticular connective tissue with process cells. These cells, together with the reticular fibers formed by them, form a three-dimensional network. The structure of the stroma also includes phagocytic cells in several varieties.
The inner part of the node is called the medulla. Closer to the plane of the capsule is a cortical substance with the surface part, and a zone of deep bark.
The accumulation of lymphoid tissue inside the node space forms follicles - lymph nodules located closer to the capsule. In the deep cortex contains a large number of lymphocytes with a dense and uniform arrangement.
The lymph node, in fact, is a barrier to the retention of infection, pathologically altered cells, tumors. In it, the formation of lymphocytes - protective cells that are engaged in the destruction of foreign elements.
The cervical lymph nodes in the overall defense system of the body are able to eliminate pathogenic pathogens and degenerated malignant cells that pose a real danger to human life.
They are divided into:
- posterior cervix;
- submandibular nodes.
In a normal state, a healthy person cannot feel them, since they are small in size, they are soft and elastic, quite mobile under the skin.
Inflammation of the cervical nodes: a characteristic of the concept
Lymph nodes tend to inflame, grow in size. Why it happens? The problem is the development of lymphadenitis.
Lymphadenitis is a disease associated with a specific or non-specific inflammatory process in the nodes. An increase in the size of the nodes is accompanied by a feeling of pain in them. In addition, a person has a headache, general malaise and weakness, subfebrile or, rarely, high fever.
Most often, pathology occurs as a secondary complication in the presence of inflammatory processes of any localization. The pathogens, along with the toxins secreted by them, penetrate into the regional lymph nodes along with the lymph flowing from the primary lesion. In some cases, this focus is already disappearing by the time lymphadenitis appears, and it cannot be recognized. Sometimes a disease occurs as a result of infection directly in the lymphatic network through damage to the mucous tissue or skin.
The developing inflammatory reaction is a protective function of the lymphatic system: with the help of such a barrier, the body limits the further spread of pathogenic particles through tissues, organs, and blood.
At the same time, along with the development of inflammation in the nodes, a person may begin the formation of purulent processes - sepsis and adenophlegmon. The danger of this condition is the approach of the current of infected lymph to the brain. If the fluid containing the infection in it enters the brain, it becomes infected, and then serious complications, disability, and sometimes death.
Inflammation of the lymph nodes of the neck does not apply to independent diseases - it is a signal of the presence of other pathologies and disorders. In addition, inflammation is accompanied by a violation in the entire system of lymph nodes and blood vessels.
Causes of inflammation in the lymph nodes
What are some of the reasons a person may begin to be disturbed by sore nodes in the neck?
Lymphadenitis is usually a concomitant syndrome:
- chronic alcoholism in specific forms;
- some infectious and viral diseases, for example, manifested in chickenpox, mononucleosis, herpes, rubella;
- diseases of the oral cavity, nasal passages, respiratory tract (for antritis, sore throat, cold, stomatitis);
- reduction of immunity;
- injury or mechanical damage to the nodes;
- lack of vitamins and some beneficial trace elements;
- nervous disorders, such as stress or depression;
- sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis or HIV.
In young children, an increase and pain on palpation in the lymph nodes may develop with teething. Sometimes inflammation occurs in women during pregnancy.
Against the background of reduced immunity, a person may experience chronic inflammation of the lymph nodes, not only on the neck, but also in the groin, armpits, on the back of the head, in the clavicle area, in the abdominal cavity.
It should be noted that in a normal person, a slight increase in the lymph nodes in the neck is allowed - to a size of no more than 1 centimeter, in the groin - up to 2 centimeters. As for cases when the inflammation is more intense, this condition requires mandatory diagnosis in order to determine its etiology. For example, if the inflammation is localized in the nodes in the neck to the right and left, this may indicate the development of mononucleosis, tuberculosis, sarcoidosis, lymphoma, infectious lesions of the upper respiratory tract, and also occurs when a highly sensitive reaction to vaccination against the tuberculous pathogen. Lymphadenitis in the nodes behind and in front of the auricles develops with rubella, under the lower jaw - with chronic tonsillitis or gum disease. If there is a gradual or sharp inflammation of all groups of lymph nodes in the body simultaneously, that is, multiple, this pathology is characteristic of the early stage of the development of HIV infection. In lymphoma, the condition of the nodes is characterized as painless, and they become mobile. If a person develops metastases in the nodes, they are felt as dense and welded to palpation.
Symptoms of inflammation of the cervical lymph nodes
The most important manifestation is the appearance of some seals and swelling at the location of the nodes. When pressed, a person may feel pain.
With the progressive development of the disease in a patient appears:
- general weakness and malaise;
- loss of appetite;
- elevated temperature.
Children often develop intoxication on the background of the inflammatory process.
The increase in cervical lymph nodes may be chronic or acute.
A condition peculiar to people with greatly reduced immunity, as soon as they develop any kind of disease, even a mild form of a cold. At the same time, the inflamed nodes are painless both during remission and during exacerbation of the chronic form. In rare cases, suppurations occur. Chronic enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck can accompany the development of tuberculosis at different stages - such lymphadenitis usually goes without temperature, or with its slight fluctuations to subfebrile values.
It is a complication of a specific disease, accompanied by purulent processes in the lymph nodes, a sharp rise in temperature to values of 38-39 degrees. At the same time, the skin above the knot acquires a red tint, in form and external it resembles a furuncle. The further the disease progresses, the larger the size of the lymph node becomes, its contours lose clarity. The focus of infection with palpation is less mobile.
Such a state without medical assistance causes the development of sepsis or adenoma.
Unilateral enlargement of the lymph nodes in the neck
The cervical or submandibular nodules, enlarged on the one hand, signal the possible development of lymphoma or a tumor process of a non-lymphoid nature in the neck or head. It can be combined with unilateral inflammation of supraclavicular lymph nodes, as well as those located in the zone of the scalene muscle, if, for example, metastases into the chest cavity or the gastrointestinal tract begin to spread from the tumor.
The Virchow node is a combination of one-sided magnification of the nodes on the neck, as well as an enlarged left supraclavicular node.
Inflammation of the lymph nodes in a child
The main reason is the presence of any infectious process, and its effect on the body. Approximately 80% of cases of increased node disease does not occur. However, if a child has a weak immunity, his disease state will most likely cause lymphadenitis. For example, inflammation of the lymph nodes may be due to mumps, sore throat, or laryngitis.
The mechanism of development looks like this: after bacteria enter the lymphatic channels, they are transferred to the lymph nodes. In the lymph nodes, after the ingress of pathogenic microorganisms, the process of producing special cells is started to fight the infection. For the most intensive excretion of lymphocytes (protective cells), the size of the lymph node increases.
Severe inflammation occurs due to the fact that the body is not able to cope with the bacterial load. The process may even go into the formation of pus in the cavity of the node. The skin in the zone of development of lymphadenitis becomes hyperemic and edematous.
The state of illness in a child begins with a general malaise. The child becomes lethargic and capricious, his appetite disappears. Inflammation of the lymph nodes may be accompanied by fever, signs of intoxication.
To determine the location of the lesion is very easy to touch, in acute cases, it becomes visually noticeable. On palpation it gives pain, the tissues above the knot are felt as edematous and stretched. The condition may be accompanied by headache, chills, suppuration.
A slight increase in one lymph node, especially in infants, may indicate that he simply began to work a little more actively than others, against the background of mild forms of disease, or after recovery.
Gradually, it knocks, acquires normal size.
Occipital lymph nodes in a baby may increase:
- because of measles;
- with mononucleosis;
- against the background of toxoplasmosis.
It is these diseases that can often provoke inflammation of the nodes on the back of the head in a child. In severe cases, their increase can be seen even in appearance. The face of the baby at the same time acquires a puffy expression.
In addition, the lymph nodes in the neck increase in size due to cat scratches. This syndrome is relevant for children who have pets, and who are often in contact with representatives of the cat. Cats in saliva contain a large variety of microorganisms. They can easily get into the child’s body if the animal has bitten or scratched it. Lymphadenitis can be observed within 2-3 days after receiving a wound.
Colds provoke inflammation of the lymph nodes in children, to which various diseases literally stick. In the presence of infectious diseases, lymphadenitis most rapidly develops in the place closest to the entrance gate of the infection, so an inflamed cervical lymph node may indicate the development of diseases of the upper respiratory tract, throat, and head.
The development of pathology in adults is most often caused by infectious factors, for example, diphtheria, tuberculosis, syphilis, brucellosis, rubella viruses, herpes, measles, fungal infections (actinomycosis, histoplasmosis), chlamydiosis and mononucleosis.
Also, the problem may be in the defeat of the oral cavity by bacteria or viral microorganisms, but this condition is more characteristic of children.
About 5% of lymphadenopathy cases in men and women are associated with non-infectious factors, including the development of oncological processes - lymphoma, leukemia, and neuroblastoma.
Nonspecific infection - a condition that occurs quite rarely in people with low levels of immunity. This type of pathological process develops due to opportunistic microflora, which normally lives in the human body normally. While a person is healthy, immunity is able to suppress its activity, keeping it at a safe background level.If there are favorable conditions for activating the flora (injuries, stress, illness, hypothermia), its intensive vital activity is no longer able to restrain the immune system, and the person becomes ill.
The first, most characteristic symptom is an increase in lymph nodes to sizes greater than 1 centimeter (inguinal - more than 2 centimeters). Depending on the etiological factor, the further course of the disease may be different.
Pain in the inflammation of the lymph nodes is a sure sign of an inflammatory process. An adult may form an abscess, the skin over which acquires an intense red hue. To the touch the knots are soft, tight and elastic. In adults, the syndrome is often accompanied by a rash, an enlarged liver and spleen, weight loss and intense sweating.
Pain without an increase in the site of the lymph node
Not always pain in the lymph nodes are accompanied by their increase. If the affected person has pain in the lymph nodes, but to the touch they are not enlarged and not inflamed, this may indicate the presence of residual angina of ARVI, some other respiratory infections. Doctors say that the duration of the painful syndrome after recovery can be judged on how well the immune system works in humans: the longer the nodes hurt, the weaker the immune response.
In addition, the cause of pain in the nodes without an increase may be their local infection, or weak hemorrhagic inflammation, which does not affect the general well-being.
Inflammation in Oncology
Anatomical features of the structure of the neck cause frequent inflammation and the development of metastases in the cervical lymph nodes - this is due to the large number of lymphatic and blood vessels, as well as nerve fibers in this part of the body.
In case of cancer of different localization, the cervical nodes are denoted by protruding rounded formations with relatively sharp contours. On palpation, they are painless, dense and elastic texture, little mobility.
Metastases appear in the nodes of the neck in case of cancer in such organs:
- in the larynx;
- in lips and tongue;
- in the thyroid gland;
- in the skin of the neck and head.
Inflammation of the deep lymph nodes is not always possible to feel, but there is some asymmetry in view of the neck.
Malignant cells in lung cancer or esophagus can get into the right supraclavicular node, and if a patient has complaints of inflammation of the left node, this may be due to the spread of malignant tumors in the liver, stomach, colon or rectum.
State of lymph nodes after chemotherapy
In some cases, on the background of radiation treatment and chemotherapy in oncology, patients may have swollen lymph nodes, including the neck. This is due to the high sensitivity of the lymph node follicles to cytostatic toxins. The development of lymphadenopathy after chemistry is caused by damage to the lymph node cells, a decrease in the number of lymphocytes and leukocytes in the blood, as well as in the body’s specific response to infection.
Treatment of inflammation of the lymph nodes in the neck
Therapy for lymphadenitis is appointed only after the patient is diagnosed. For diagnostics, it is sent for inspection to narrow specialists - an otolaryngologist, an immunologist, an allergist, an infectious diseases specialist, an oncologist, and also prescribe a list of tests, including a general blood test, PCR tests for pathogens of various infectious diseases, serological reactions of the blood, tests for tumor markers.
The acute form of lymphadenitis is recognized by the presence of pain in the nodes, chills and fever. Purulent processes are accompanied by redness of the skin, a sharp headache.
The initial stage of the pathology responds well to treatment until purulent masses appear. In its advanced form, a disease with purulent lesions can lead to the destruction of the node itself, blood infection and thrombophlebitis.
Chronic form - a typical complication of the acute stage or sluggish forms of the disease. It is not characterized by the formation of seals and pus, the presence of pain.
In any case, the inflammation of the nodes need to consult a doctor in order to determine the etiology of the condition. This is especially important for children who, as doctors say, lymphadenitis occurs more often than in adults, as they are more mobile, and the infection more easily penetrates into their bodies.
If the site is more than 3-4 centimeters in size, this may indicate the presence of purulent inflammation, which sometimes requires surgical intervention.
For the treatment of pathology, one should not apply heat and warming lotions, heating pads, alcohol and vodka compresses, it is forbidden to massage and mechanically act on the inflamed lymph node, as this may contribute to the growth of tissues or the spread of pus.
How to help the affected with this pathology? At home, it is enough to provide him with plenty of drink, a balanced and dietetic food with plenty of vegetables and fruits, preferably in stew or baked form. In the period of the first aggravation it is generally recommended to take liquid food. To strengthen the immunity, you can take vitamin complexes, echinacea.
If the problem is an allergic reaction, the attending physician prescribes antihistamine medication. The bacterial infection causing lymphadenitis is treated with antibiotics and antimicrobials.
In any case, the drug effect on the cause of the appearance of the inflammatory process should be carried out only on doctor's prescription. If you seek medical help immediately, without waiting for the development of complications, treatment will not be a problem.
The inflammatory process in the nodes in children is not recommended to be treated with folk remedies, compresses and other recipes, especially if the baby has a high temperature.
Cervical lymphadenia is a process of inflammation and growth of tissues in the lymph nodes of the neck, which occurs against the background of various pathological processes. In children, inflammation can occur when teething baby teeth, with measles, rubella, SARS or mononucleosis. An increase in nodules in adults can be regarded as the first sign of the appearance of malignant tumors, lymphoma, sarcoidosis.
The condition, if it does not take acute forms, can be treated at home, but only after the patient is examined by a doctor and determines the cause of the disease.