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Swollen Lymph Nodes Under Arm – Causes and Treatment

Written by Dr.Mary

Do you notice a bump under your arm?

Lymph nodes are located under the arm and this could be the cause of the bump – an enlarged lymph node. Most individuals do not even know they have lymph nodes under the arms. Clear fluid travels thru the body in the arteries, circulating thru the tissues to clean them up – this is known as lymph. It additionally keeps tissue firm. This lymph drains away thru the lymphatic system. Then lymph nodes are placed thru out the body in strategic locations as filters for this lymphatic system and the trap viruses, bacteria, cancer cells as well as other substances that are unwanted and they then safely are eliminated from the body. When not swollen these nodes are about the size of a bean.

Causes of Swollen Lymph Nodes Under Arm

The reason that is most common for a lymph node to be swollen under the arms or any other location on the body is due to an infection. The lymphatic nodes have the vital role of battling off:

  • Viruses
  • Infection
  • Bacteria
  • Other causes of illness

It also filters dead tissues from the lymphatic system. Other lymph node locations besides the underarms include the following:

  • Neck/head
  • Inguinal (genitalia/pelvis or perineum)
  • Mediastinal (chest)
  • Auxiliary (mammary and underarm)
  • Arm (underarm)
  • Lung
  • Mesenteric front (intestines)
  • Legs front (groin)
  • Mesenteric back (posterior abdominal wall)
  • Legs back (lower leg)

These nodes of the lymphatic system can enlarge, inflame or swell due to:

  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Fungal infection
  • Cancer
  • Breast tissue pressure
  • Vaccinations

Most of these swollen lymphatic nodes will return to normal size without any treatment as soon as the trigger or infection is no longer present.

Women with underarm lymph nodes that are swollen need to have special attention paid to them since it could be a sign or symptom of breast cancer being present. A primary care physician can diagnose what is causing this swelling. He/she uses examination, blood tests, CT scan, X-ray or a lymphatic node biopsy in order to diagnose the cause of the swollen lymph node.


If the lymphatic nodes get overwhelmed with cells of cancer, the cancer can then begin to grow in the nodes. This spreading of cancer to the lymphatic nodes use to be a death sentence but this is currently not true. But it will affect the physician determining the cancer stage and the type of treatment the patient with cancer will receive.

Swollen Lymph Nodes Under Arm Treatment

There is not any specific treatment for swollen lymphatic nodes. The underlying cause of the swollen node or nodes needs to be determined and that needs to be the focus of treatment. Some infections may need to be treated with antibiotics.

Home remedy to relieve any discomfort of inflamed or swollen lymph nodes is to apply warm compresses as well as take OTC (over-the-counter) pain relievers.

Any swollen lymphatic node needs to be monitored carefully and your primary care physician should be notified if there is no obvious reason, it grows rapidly, there is swelling of lymphatic nodes thru out the body or anything else that might be causing concern.

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