Swollen Glands in the Neck

Welcome to our Decision Guide on Swollen Glands in the Neck.

The term "swollen glands" usually refers to enlarged lymph nodes. In fact, lymph nodes are not actually glands. They are small bundles of white blood cells that are present in multiple areas throughout our body.

One of the ways the body's immune system responds to infections and inflammation is to greatly increase the number of white cells in the lymph nodes causing them to swell. Most often swollen lymph nodes are caused by an infection or some other benign condition. Less commonly, lymph nodes enlarge related to cancer.

The parts of the body where people and their doctors can see or feel swollen lymph nodes include the neck, armpit, and groin areas.

This guide will focus only on "swollen glands" in the neck. By answering a short series of questions, you will learn about the most common reasons for your swollen glands in the neck.

This guide is not intended to replace the evaluation and advice of a health care professional.

Are the "swollen glands" confined to your neck?

Yes, the glands are swollen only in my neck.

No, my glands are swollen beyond my neck.

The approach to gland swelling in areas outside of the neck or in multiple areas of the body is different from the approach to swollen glands confined to the neck.

If you feel swollen lymph nodes in other areas of your body, please visit our Health Decision Guide called Swollen Glands (General).

Before you go any further into the guide, it will be easier to stop using the confusing term "swollen glands." Instead, this guide will address any swelling in the neck that you believe is new.

In the neck, a swelling may be seen or felt that may be something other than an enlarged lymph node. A neck swelling might be one of the salivary glands in front of the ears and under the jaw or the thyroid gland that sits in the lower part of the neck in front of the windpipe.

One or more abnormal swellings in the neck that is still present after one month requires evaluation by your doctor.

Have you had one or more swellings in the neck for more than a month?

Yes, it has been more than one month.

No, my glands have been swollen for less than one month.

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