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Swollen Glands and Lymph Nodes: Why They Occur During a Sinus Infection

written by: Laura Latzko • edited by: dianahardin • updated: 6/29/2011

Swollen glands or enlarged lymphatic glands can be a sign that you are suffering from a sinus infection. The lymph nodes often return to their normal size after taking medications for a sinus infection and swollen glands.

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    More than 15 billion people visit doctors’ offices each year because of sinus infections, also known as sinusitis, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The infections occur when the sinuses become swollen, often due to allergies or colds. Sinus infections may cause the lymphatic glands to become inflamed. Swollen glands commonly occur along with bacterial or viral infections or inflammatory conditions.

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    Symptoms

    When a person develops a sinus infection and swollen glands, he usually has inflamed glands in his neck, chin or the back of the head. Swollen glands commonly occur only in the area of an infection, which means that infections in the arms or groin are usually indicative of other health problems. When the neck glands swell, it is because white blood cells are building up in that area of the body to try to fight the infection.

    Glands can stay swollen for weeks at a time, even after a patient no longer has a sinus infection. When this occurs, the glands, which are usually not noticeable, protrude and become hard and sensitive to the touch. Swollen glands are a less common symptom of sinus infections than nasal congestion, coughing, a sore throat, facial pain or pressure, headaches and nasal drainage; however, swollen glands may accompany these more common symptoms.

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    Risks

    If patients do not treat the sinus infection responsible for swollen lymph nodes, the lymphatic glands can develop into an abscess, a hollow spot containing pus, in the area of infection. Sometimes doctors have to drain the abscess and put patients on antibiotics to heal this health problem.

    If swollen lymph nodes continue to grow larger, they can impede the functions of bodily organs or structures, such as the intestines, which would require immediate medical attention. If sinus infections are not treated, people can develop ear infections, eye problems or meningitis. Inflamed lymphatic glands can be indicative of serious health conditions, such as lung, breast or lymphatic cancer, so patients should not always assume that a sinus infection is the cause of swollen glands.

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    Treatment and Prevention

    Doctors can often treat swollen glands and other symptoms, such as nasal congestion, by treating sinus infections. If a bacterial infection is the cause of a sinus infection, a physician can give a patient antibiotics. Individuals with sinus infections can sometimes reduce their symptoms, including swollen glands, by using pain medications, such as ibuprofen, aspirin or acetaminophen. Warm compresses and vaporizers sometimes also work to decrease inflammation in the sinuses. When sinus infections result from allergies, patients can use nasal sprays or request allergy shots to reduce their symptoms.

    People can often prevent swollen glands by staying away from substances which can cause allergies, such as pollen, dust, pollution, pet dander or mold. If patients continuously struggle wtih swollen glands because of chronic sinus infections, they can sometimes request surgery to have their sinus passages expanded, which can reduce the number of sinus infections they get each year. Patients can also prevent swollen glands and sinus infections by drinking water and juice every day and following a regular sleep schedule.

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    References

    National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: Sinus Infection (Sinusitis). http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/sinusitis/Pages/Index.aspx

    MedlinePlus: Swollen Lymph Nodes. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003097.htm

    Mayo Clinic: Acute Sinusitis. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/acute-sinusitis/DS00170

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