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What causes swollen lymph glands?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2009
Answered : 5135 Questions
My 8 month old son has had a lima bean sized, hard but very movable lump behind his right ear for about 6 weeks now. I took him to his pediatrician and to a pediatric ENT specialist and they both agreed that it is just a lymph node and nothing to worry about. Yesterday I noticed the same sort of lump but slightly smaller behind his left ear as well. He is showing no signs at all of being sick, however we did just get back from a family vacation and I noticed that his ears were bothering him on the flight home (probably due to the pressure in the air plane). Could this cause the other lymph node to enlarge? Or shoule I be concerned? His doctor is closed until Wednesday, so I would just like to know if this is reason to call him at home...??? Thank You! Oh I should also mention that my son has very sensitive skin. He breaks out in rashes around his face, scalp and body often, but it usually clears up quickly after applying ointment. He did have a flare up a few days ago.
Posted Thu, 13 Feb 2014 in General Health
Answered by Dr. Chobufo Ditah 2 hours later
Brief Answer: Please, do not get too worried Detailed Answer: Hi and thank you so much for this query. I am so sorry to hear about this swollen lymph glands. I understand how disturbing this can be for a caring mom. I will like too shed more light on what these glans are, their functions and the most likely reasons for enlarged glands. Lymph nodes are like security units. They fight against infection to keep us healthy. They are located all over th body and fight infections in areas located close to them. For example, those on the head would fight against infections and conditions located around the head in places like mouths, nostrils, ears, eyes, face, etc Each time there is an ongoing infection or inflammation, these glands swell and increase in size just like the size of security forces would increase during threats. This is what is often responsible for these changes. It is expected and normal for this to happen. After the infection, they take some time before ever returning to their normal sizes. Given the fact that you child has been having recurrent allergic reactions around the head, the glands located there would be constantly going through this process to help contain the infection. There is no reason to get concerned right now. Glands that represent more concerning findings like cancer often grow big, shard to touch and move very little. This is not what you child has. Pressure changes cannot cause lymph glands to increase in size. I will not recommend that you seek immediate medical attention because of this. There is simply no magic that can be done overnight to cause this to reduce in size. We often treat infections and control inflammatory conditions that provoke this while allowing the glands to slowly regress to their normal sizes. I hope this addresses your query fully. Thank you so much for using our services and do feel free to ask for more clarification or information if need be. I wish you well. Dr. Ditah, MD.
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Follow-up: What causes swollen lymph glands? 14 minutes later
Thank you for your response. Is it normal for lymph nodes to take so long to go back down? The one behind his right ear has been there for almost 2 months and doesn't seem to have changed at all. Also, I was just wondering if this is common in babies? My doctor said he feel lyph nodes on his young patients all the time, but I have never felt lymph nodes on my first son, or on myself. I just wish they would go back down to normal size, as they are causing me a lot of anxiety. Thanks Again.
Answered by Dr. Chobufo Ditah 8 minutes later
Brief Answer: It takes long to go back! Detailed Answer: Hi and thanks for following up with me. Lymph nodes take months to regress. The problem with lymph nodes is not feeling them but the sizes. In very thin persons, yo\u can virtually feel almost all the nodes but it in no way signifies a concern if they are not too big. It is relatively easier to feel in children because the smallest increase in size is noticeable because they have not developed sufficient fatty tissue that sits over these glands and make smaller changes to go unnoticed. I wish they o back as soon as possible but also understand that they are completely harmless for now and should not make you have heightened concerns. Be relaxed and hope all turns out great. I wish your son well. Feel free to ask for more clarifications if need be. Thanks Dr. Ditah, MD.
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Follow-up: What causes swollen lymph glands? 9 minutes later
Just one more question. What size would you find to be concerning? His is about the size of a lima bean, and the other a pea. Is it possible that they can remain this size for good? My son's doctor sated that the reason they feel hard is because they are near the scalp and something about calcium deposits. If it were something more serious, would he most likely have other symptoms as well? Thank you for some peice of mind.
Answered by Dr. Chobufo Ditah 11 minutes later
Brief Answer: Thanks! Detailed Answer: Hi and thanks for more questions. 1. Sizes less than 1cm in children are not of any concerns to us and more so in an area where most of the child's childhood infections occur. Ear, throat, nostrils, etc. You should not be worried about this just now. 2. They would most likely decrease in size over time. This is what happens to everyone. We simply need to exercise some patience and understand it is just the normal trend of events. 3. For sure, he would have presented with bigger glands and more symptoms. Symptoms associated with cancer include weight loss, night fevers, loss of appetite, body weakness and ill looking. Thees are clearly absent. I have no information that raise any red flags about this right now. 4. About calcium deposits, I cannot concord that but probably he has reasons to suggest so. But the simple reason why these glands stand distinct is because they have as floor the skull which is hard and makes perception/prominence more likely than elsewhere like the groin or armpits. Sit back and relax. It is nothing too serious as of now to be worried about. I wish you well and hope you get a peaceful mindset after these exchanges. Dr. Ditah, MD.
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