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What should I do if I have a swollen gland?

Last Modified: August 17, 2023

Family Medicine

Swollen gland

This post was written by Ashley Groeller, PA, and Sara Herstad, DO, Parkview Walk-in Clinic.

Have you ever noticed a small bump on your body near your neck, armpit or groin? This could be a swollen gland or lymph node. While a swollen lymph node is typically harmless, it’s important to know what to do and when to seek a doctor’s advice.

What is a gland?

Glands, also known as lymph nodes, are small, kidney-shaped structures that are part of the body’s immune system. These glands contain white blood cells and play an important role in your ability to identify and fight infection. They work by trapping viruses, bacteria and other causes of illness before they can infect the rest of your body.

What causes a swollen gland?

If your lymph nodes recognize a threat to your body, such as a virus or bacteria, they begin producing extra white blood cells and lymph fluid to fight the infection — which causes the lymph nodes to swell.

When this happens, you can often feel a small bump (usually the size of a marble) in your neck, armpit or groin area. Often, it will become painful or tender, which makes it easier to locate.

How do you treat a swollen gland?

Usually, a swollen lymph node will go away on its own without any treatment. Getting adequate rest and drinking lots of fluid will help you fight the potential virus or infection that is causing the gland to swell.

If your swollen lymph node is painful, you can apply a warm compress to the area, such as a washcloth dipped in warm water, or take an over-the-counter pain reliever.

When should you seek medical treatment? 

Often, at-home treatment will be sufficient. However, if you notice your lymph node is swollen for more than two weeks, is becoming increasingly red or tender, or there’s swelling in multiple different lymph nodes throughout your body, it’s best to get the area checked out by a provider. He or she will be able to help you with more specific treatment if needed.

If the area becomes persistently swollen despite treatment, your provider may suggest follow-up care with a specialist.

Talk to a primary care provider today via Parkview MyChart

Want to speak with a provider about your swollen gland? With our Virtual Walk-in Clinic, you can see a Parkview provider from your smartphone, tablet or computer and receive the same level of care you would at an in-person visit. Our providers are available to treat and diagnose non-emergency medical issues, and prescriptions can even be sent right to your pharmacy of choice. Virtual Walk-in Clinic video visits are open to anyone in Indiana or Ohio, even if you don’t currently have a Parkview provider. 

To get started, log in to your MyChart account and select Virtual Walk-in Clinic from the menu. For the best visit experience, use the free MyChart mobile app, downloadable for Android or Apple products.

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