Swollen Lymph Nodes In The Groin

  • Ayesha Bibi Doctor of Pharmacy - Pharm-D, The University of Faisalabad, Pakistan
  • Yuna Chow BSc (Hons), Medicine, University of St Andrews

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Introduction

What are lymph nodes?

Lymph nodes (also called lymph glands) are small pea-sized tissues that are composed of white blood cells which fight against infections. Lymph nodes are part of your body’s immune system and play a main role in filtering lymph-containing waste substances. These nodes trap the infection-causing agents, including bacteria, viruses, fungi and other causes of illness, before they can affect other parts of your body. Lymph nodes are found throughout your body and protect you from infections. The main  locations are:

  • Armpits
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Stomach
  • Chest
  • Groin

What are groin lymph nodes?

The groin is the area where your thighs meet the abdomen. There are 10 lymph nodes in each of your groin regions. Lymph nodes found in the groin area may also be known as inguinal lymph nodes. These nodes have the same functions as other lymph nodes of combatting disease and infection.1

What is inguinal lymphadenopathy?

The condition where the lymph nodes are swollen is called lymphadenopathy. Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area are categorized as inguinal lymphadenopathy. Although lymph nodes normally get swollen and enlarged while fighting against infections, it may also indicate other health conditions and it is essential to get medical attention if you notice the area under your skin getting puffy and is tender to touch.

What causes swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area may indicate that you have an infection in your groin region. These infections are the common causes of a swollen inguinal lymph node and include:1

Other factors rarely cause lymphadenopathy in your groin area (swollen groin lymph node) and include:1,2

What are the symptoms of swollen inguinal lymph nodes?

The symptoms of swollen inguinal lymph nodes depend on the cause of this swelling and enlargement. Common symptoms may include:1

  • Tenderness (groin area)
  • Pain in the groin area
  • Palpable swelling

Other associated symptoms may include fever, fatigue, runny nose, etc, depending on the cause of the infection. 

How do I know I have a swollen inguinal lymph node?

Although you inguinal lymph nodes are not noticeable, they become palpable in case of swelling and can be felt by touch. To check if you have swollen lymph nodes in your groin area, place your first three fingers in the crease where your thighs meet your pelvis. This is the location of groin lymph nodes, and if they are swollen, you will feel a hard lump.2

Swollen lymph nodes are not cause for worry as they get treated on their own without requiring treatment. However, you need to see a doctor in case your lymph nodes are swollen without any apparent reason and do not go away within two to four weeks. 

How do you diagnose swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

Your healthcare provider diagnoses swollen inguinal lymph nodes by taking your medical history and conducting a physical examination.3

Medical history

Taking a medical history helps in diagnosis as an underlying condition may cause swollen lymph nodes in your groin. Medical history that is helpful for inguinal lymphadenopathy includes conditions you have had previously, the treatment you have received (e.g. atenolol, captopril, etc. may cause inguinal lymphadenopathy), social history such as unprotected sex, or if you have a family member with cancer or autoimmune disorders. 

Physical exam

Your healthcare provider will apply mild pressure to evaluate the presence, extent, and size of swelling. They will also assess all of your vital body systems for any indication of illness.

Diagnostic tests

Your doctor may also order laboratory tests such as blood tests to detect infections and imaging tests (MRI, CT scan) to determine the size and location of swollen inguinal lymph nodes. Your provider may also order a lymph node biopsy to check if you have cancer that is resulting in inguinal lymphadenopathy.

How are swollen lymph nodes in the groin treated?

The following treatment options are employed for the management of swollen inguinal lymph nodes and depend on the cause:3, 6

Infection

Although a swollen inguinal lymph node caused by an infection is often managed on its own, a persistent swelling may call for proper treatment. Medications for infection include antibiotics, antivirals and antifungals.

Autoimmune disorder

If your swollen lymph nodes are due to certain autoimmune disorders, you are given medications that are directed at treating these disorders.

Medications

Your healthcare provider will change either the medication or its dose if this medication is the cause of your swollen inguinal lymph nodes.

Cancer

Abnormal growth is removed with the help of surgery. Other options may include chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

How can I prevent swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

You should take the following steps in order to prevent swollen lymph nodes in the groin:6

  • Maintain good hygiene to avoid infections.
  • Adhere to your physician’s instructions regarding medications for conditions such as autoimmune disorders.
  • Avoid unprotected sex to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
  • Keep yourself vaccinated.
  • Always make sure to seek regular checkups and screening.

Self-care in inguinal lymphadenopathy

Self-care may cause you to feel relief and reduce pain. It includes following:1

  • Take an over-the-counter pain medication. These may include ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. 
  • Apply a warm compress to the affected area.
  • Take enough rest and keep yourself hydrated to assist in recovery.

When to seek medical help?

Swollen lymph nodes usually do not require treatment and return to normal after the underlying cause, such as an infection, gets better. Seek your doctor in case of the following conditions:1

  • Your lymph nodes have swollen without any apparent reason.
  • The swelling is associated with serious symptoms such as persistent fever or unexplained weight loss.
  • The swollen lymph nodes persist for more than two to four weeks.
  • Rapidly growing lymph nodes.

Summary

Swollen lymph nodes in the groin is a condition also known as inguinal lymphadenopathy. Most of the time, these lymph nodes swell while fighting against a bacterial or viral infection, and this enlargement is managed after the infection is eliminated from the body. However, this is not always the case. Lymph nodes in the groin can swell as a result of many other causes, including autoimmune disorders, certain medications, cancer, and inflammation. One of the major factors in prevention is the maintenance of good hygiene. You can prevent your inguinal lymph nodes from swelling if you follow proper hygiene practices, avoid unprotected sex, and take medications according to your doctor’s instructions, especially if an underlying condition is causing the lymph node swelling. Treatment involves managing the underlying cause of the swelling, such as antimicrobials for infections, immunotherapy for autoimmune disorders, and avoiding medications that are causing the inguinal lymph nodes to swell.

FAQs

What is inguinal lymphadenopathy?

Inguinal lymphadenopathy is the condition where the lymph nodes in your groin (also called inguinal lymph nodes) are swollen. This swelling may occur due to several causes, the most common one of which are infections.

How long is recovery time for swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

The recovery time period for swollen lymph nodes in the groin depends upon several factors, such as cause, proper treatment regimen, and whether you are following your doctor’s instructions or not. If the cause behind the swelling is a bacterial infection and you are prescribed antibiotics, which you are taking according to your healthcare provider’s advice, recovery can take place within a few days. However, the recovery may also take a few weeks.

Can cancer be a cause of swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

Yes, certain forms of cancer may also result in inguinal lymphadenopathy. These cancers may include leukaemia, lymphoma, lower body melanoma, vulvar cancer, penile cancer, and cervical cancer.

How do I know if my inguinal lymph nodes are swollen due to cancer?

Some signs that indicate you might have swollen lymph nodes in the groin due to cancer include: the swollen nodes are hard and do not move even under pressure; nodes keep on growing in size; nodes are not responding to medications.3, 5

What can I do in order to avoid swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

Maintain good hygiene, take medications for the underlying cause of the disease, avoid unprotected sex, keep yourself vaccinated, go for regular checkups and screenings.

Do swollen lymph nodes in the groin have long-term effects on your health?

No, swollen lymph nodes in the groin do not typically have any long-term health effects.

What are some common infections that can lead to swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

Common infections that cause you to have inguinal lymphadenopathy are fungal infections, bacterial skin infections (e.g. cellulitis), sexually transmitted infections (such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, chancroid, and syphilis), and urinary tract infections (UTIs).

How do I recover from swollen lymph nodes in the groin?

Treatment for inguinal lymphadenopathy depends on the underlying cause of this swelling. If your inguinal lymph nodes are swollen due to an infection, antimicrobials are prescribed for treatment. In case the cancer is the causative factor behind swollen nodes, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgery are the recommended treatment options. Swollen lymph nodes caused by medications are managed by either reducing the dose of this medication or changing the medication altogether. 

References

  1. Mayo Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 18]. Swollen lymph nodes-Swollen lymph nodes - Symptoms & causes. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/swollen-lymph-nodes/symptoms-causes/syc-20353902
  2. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 18]. Inguinal lymph node: location & function. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/23218-inguinal-lymph-node
  3. Cleveland Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2023 Oct 18]. Swollen lymph nodes in groin: what are they, causes & symptoms. Available from: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21695-swollen-lymph-nodes-in-the-groin
  4. Bui T, Bordoni B. Anatomy, abdomen and pelvis: inguinal lymph node. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 [cited 2023 Oct 18]. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557639/
  5. BuzzRx. BuzzRx. 2022 [cited 2023 Oct 18]. What causes inguinal lymph nodes to swell? Available from: https://www.buzzrx.com/blog/what-causes-inguinal-lymph-nodes-to-swell
  6. Swollen lymph nodes in the groin | metromale clinic & fertility center [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Oct 18]. Available from: https://metromaleclinic.com/swollen-lymph-nodes-in-the-groin/

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Ayesha Bibi

Doctor of Pharmacy - Pharm-D, The University of Faisalabad, Pakistan

Ayesha is an undergraduate pharmacy student with strong management and leadership acumen having experience of industrial and hospital pharmacy through internship programs. She has presented at an international conference as a student speaker and also volunteered at a fundraising community.

She is a member of an online international society on telemedicine and aims to contribute to collaborative healthcare as a dedicated pharmacist after graduation.

my.klarity.health presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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