Adenitis (patient information)

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What are the symptoms?

What are the causes?


Treatment options

Where to find medical care for Adenitis?

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Possible complications


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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Lymphadenitis is an infection of the lymph nodes (also called lymph glands). It is a common complication of certain bacterial infections.

What are the symptoms of Adenitis?

  • Swollen, tender, or hard lymph nodes
  • Red, tender skin over lymph node

Lymph nodes may feel rubbery if an abscess has formed.

What causes Adenitis?

The lymph system is a network of lymph nodes, lymph ducts, lymph vessels, and organs that produce and move a fluid called lymph from tissues to the bloodstream. For more information on this part of the body, see lymph system.

The lymph glands, or nodes, are small structures that filter the lymph fluid. There are many white blood cells in the lymph nodes to help fight infection.

Lymphadenitis occurs when the glands become enlarged by swelling (inflammation), usually in response to bacteria, viruses, or fungi. The swollen glands are usually found near the site of an infection, tumor, or inflammation.

Lymphadenitis may occur after skin infections or other infections caused by bacteria such as streptococcus or staphylococcus. Sometimes it is caused by rare infections such as tuberculosis or cat scratch disease (Bartonella).

Where to find medical care for Adenitis?

Call your health care provider or go to the emergency room if you have symptoms of lymphadenitis.

When to seek urgent medical care?


The health care provider will perform a physical exam, which includes feeling your lymph nodes and looking for signs of injury or infection around any swollen lymph nodes. A biopsy and culture of the affected area or node may reveal the cause of the inflammation. Blood cultures may reveal spread of infection to the bloodstream.

Treatment options

Lymphadenitis may spread within hours. Treatment should begin promptly. Treatment may include:

  • Antibiotics to treat any underlying infection
  • Analgesics (pain killers) to control pain
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce inflammation and swelling
  • Cool compresses to reduce inflammation and pain

Surgery may be needed to drain any abscess.

Where to find medical care for Adenitis?

Directions to Hospitals Treating Condition

What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?

Prompt treatment with antibiotics usually results in complete recovery, though it may take weeks, or even months, for swelling to disappear. The amount of time until recovery occurs will vary depending on the underlying cause.

Possible complications

  • Abscess formation
  • Cellulitis (a skin infection)
  • Sepsis (generalized or bloodstream infection)
  • Fistulas (seen in lymphadenitis that is due to tuberculosis)


Good general health and hygiene are helpful in the prevention of any infection.


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