If Your Lymph Nodes Are Swollen, When Should You Call a Doctor?

Dr. Oz has the answer.

Q: If your lymph nodes are swollen, when should you call a doctor?

Oz Says: There's no need to make the call if they're enlarged when you're ill — it just means they're doing their job. You have about 600 of these bean-shaped nodes, which are part factories, part filtration systems. They help make immune cells and filter bad stuff from your lymph fluid as it flows through them.

The nodes swell as they ramp up activity when you're sick, and your fingers can feel the ones that are closer to the surface (those in your groin, armpit, and neck), explains Punita Ponda, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. The bulge trigger could be something minor: A little infection in a nick on your leg can swell the nodes in your groin, for example; an eye infection can inflate ones in your neck.

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But if they're puffy and there's nothing at all wrong, if nodes in several locations are prominent at once, or if they're painful, call a physician, says Ponda. The more severe the illness, the longer they stay plumped up.

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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