Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Enlarged Lymph Glands Anatomy

To better understand lymph gland swelling, it helps to understand the anatomy of the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system performs two major functions:

  • Stores and transports cells that fight infection
  • Removes excess fluid from body tissues

The lymphatic system consists of:
  • Lymph vessels:
    • A network of vessels throughout the body that transport white blood cells called lymphocytes.
    • There are two main types of lymphocytes: B-cells and T-cells.
  • Lymph glands:
    • The lymph vessels connect in many areas known as lymph nodes.
    • The nodes act as filters to fight infection in the body.
    • Lymph nodes can enlarge in response to inflammation.
    • This can occur due to cancer or an infection nearby the lymph vessels.

Anatomy examples:
  • Areas of lymph nodes in the body
  • Areas in the body where lymph nodes can be felt
  • Abnormal lymph node cells due to Hodgkin's disease
  • Lymphatic system around the armpit and breast
  • Lymphatic system in the abdomen

Last Updated: Nov 4, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Enlarged Lymph Glands References
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  2. Durlach RA, Kaufer F, Carral L, Hirt J. Toxoplasmic lymphadenitis--clinical and serologic profile. Clin Microbiol Infect. 2003 Jul;9(7):625-31. [12925102]
  3. Giovagnorio F, Rusticali A, Araneo AL. Color and pulsed Doppler evaluation of benign and malignant adenopathy. Clin Imaging. 1997 May-Jun;21(3):163-9. [9156303]
  4. Olszewski WL. The innate reaction of the human skin lymphatic system to foreign and self-antigens. Lymphat Res Biol. 2005 Summer;3(2):50-7. [16000053]
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