Swollen Lymph Nodes in the Groin
What are lymph nodes?
Lymph nodes are small, rounded structures (glands) that are part of your immune system. They are fleshy and they filter the lymph, a fluid with a special type of white blood cell that helps the body fight infection.
Lymph nodes are in clusters throughout the body, including:
- Behind your earlobes.
- On the sides of your neck.
- Under your armpits.
- In the top inner part of the leg (groin).
What are the inguinal lymph nodes?
These lymph nodes are deep within the groin. There are 10 inguinal nodes near the upper thigh in each leg.
What does it mean to have swollen lymph nodes (lymphadenopathy)?
Under normal circumstances, you might not notice your lymph nodes. When they try to rid the body of harmful substances, extra cell activity causes them to enlarge. The area beneath your skin becomes puffy and may be sensitive to touch.
How do swollen inguinal lymph nodes affect my body?
Swollen lymph nodes often mean your body is fighting an infection like an ingrown nail, an insect bite or a dog bite. But they can also signal other conditions affecting the lower body.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes swollen lymph nodes in the groin?
Swelling in the inguinal lymph nodes may be due to:
- Fungal infection.
- Jock itch.
- Sexually transmitted infections.
- Skin infection (cellulitis).
What other conditions cause swollen inguinal lymph nodes?
Less common causes include:
- Melanoma affecting the lower body.
- Penile cancer.
- Vulvar cancer.
Diagnosis and Tests
How are swollen lymph nodes in the groin diagnosed?
Healthcare providers will take a medical history and perform a thorough physical exam that considers all possible causes. It includes:
Taking a medical history by asking about:
- Symptoms: What they feel like and how long you’ve had them.
- Personal health history: Conditions you have received treatment for in the past.
- Medications: Any drugs, vitamins and supplements you are taking.
- Social factors: Activities like unprotected sex that may raise your risk of infections.
- Family health history: Including cancer and autoimmune disease in blood relatives.
Conducting a physical exam, which includes:
- Evaluating all major body systems for signs of illness.
- Gently pressing on your inguinal lymph nodes to assess tenderness and size.
- Checking for swollen lymph nodes in other areas of the body.
Will I need any tests?
Healthcare providers may recommend:
- Labs: Blood tests to confirm or rule out specific types of infection.
- Imaging studies: An ultrasound or a pelvic CT scan to further assess swollen lymph nodes' size and location. These studies may also help detect abnormal growths.
- Biopsy: Healthcare providers may take a tissue sample and examine it in a lab. A biopsy helps confirm or rule out cancer.
Management and Treatment
How are swollen lymph nodes in the groin treated?
Treatments depend on the cause:
- Autoimmune disorders: Immune therapy, which includes drugs that help regulate the immune system.
- Cancer: Surgery to remove abnormal growths, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
- Infections: Prescription drugs, including antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals.
- Medication management: For swelling due to medications, your healthcare provider may change the drug or dose.
How can I prevent swollen lymph nodes in the groin?
Steps you can take include:
- Using safe sex practices to avoid sexually transmitted infections.
- Staying up to date on immunizations.
- Following your healthcare provider’s treatment recommendations for medical issues, like autoimmune disorders.
- Taking care of yourself, including good hygiene to lower the risk of skin infections.
Outlook / Prognosis
How long will it take for the swelling to go down?
It depends. If your treatment includes medications like antibiotics or antivirals, swelling should go down within a few days, but it can take a few weeks.
Can swollen inguinal lymph nodes affect my future health?
People with swelling due to infection typically make a full recovery. The condition does not affect your long-term health.
What if treatment is not successful?
If the swelling does not go away after taking medications, follow up with your healthcare provider. They may recommend more tests, treatments or a biopsy.
What if it’s cancer?
The chances of swollen inguinal lymph nodes being cancer are low, and there are typically other symptoms with cancer. If you have concerns, talk with your healthcare provider.
What are some signs it might be cancer?
Issues that may signal the need for tests to check for cancer include lymph nodes that:
- Do not get better with medications.
- Cause no discomfort.
- Continue growing, in some cases becoming a few inches in size.
- Are hard and do not move under gentle pressure.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you detect swelling in the inguinal lymph nodes, see your healthcare provider. Treatment often includes medications. And symptoms usually go away in a few days. Remember, there can be many causes for swollen lymph nodes. They are often due to an infection and rarely a sign of cancer.
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