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Neck Symptoms

My neck is tender. Could I have enlarged lymph nodes?

Neck tenderness which is not due to sore neck muscles or injuries to the head/neck area may be produced by lymph node enlargement. Certain lymph nodes in the neck may become enlarged and/or tender when the mouth or sinuses develop inflammation / infection. This is known as lymphadenopathy. Dental infections (abscesses) should be ruled out in such cases, especially when the tenderness is only on one side, is accompanied by toothache and/or swelling, or there is a history of previous dental work on the affected side.

sinus infections
Learn more about sinus infections.

If no dental origin can be found to account for the enlarged/tender lymph nodes, the sinuses may be inflamed or infected. Panoramic X-ray images will often show cloudiness in the sinus on one or both sides in such cases. The patient may complain of congestion, and pharyngitis (sore throat). Some dentists treat patients for sinus infections, while others refer the patient to a physician for treatment. Treatment frequently involves nasal/sinus decongestants and, if infection is suspected, appropriate antibiotics.

When to seek medical help

If no infectious or inflammatory reason can be found for enlarged or tender lymph nodes, and the condition persists longer than a week to ten days, the patient should be evaluated by a physician to rule out serious conditions like lymphoma.

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Author: Thomas J. Greany, D.D.S. / Editor: Ken Lambrecht

This page was last updated on June 19, 2015.

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