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Two Questions: Lymphnodes/Lymph glands
Nov 25, 1996

(1)Please describe exeacty how one can determine if the lymph glands are swollen? Can they be mistaken for a sore muscle? How far down your arm do the run? What size are they? Please do your best to describe exactly what they are and how to determine if they are swollen. Thanks for your excellent service.

(2)Hi, and thank you for this service. I have heard that swollen lymph glands can be an early sign of HIV infection, but I am not sure what these glands are, or how one can tell when they are swollen. I know they are located in the neck, armpits, and groin area, but I am not sure how to tell if they are swollen. I have had some aching in my upper arm, near the armpit but not exactly there. Also, are swollen salivary glands a sign of HIV infection? Thank you for your help, as you can probably tell I am a bit confused. Thanks.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi.Thank you for your question. It's very difficult to describe to you in words what swollen lymph glands "feel like". These glands are found at various points around the body, including under the armpits, in the neck, and in the groin area. Normally, if you can feel them at all, they may feel like a painless "pea" under your skin. The best way to know if they are swollen, is to compare them to what it "normally" feels like. Sometimes, you can't feel lymph glands. But if you later feel something like a "bump" under your skin, this could be what we call swollen glands. If they are enlarged, you can feel them being larger than they were previously. Sometimes, swollen glands may be sore to the touch.

There are numerous causes for swollen glands, both infectious and non-infectious in nature. Things like colds and the flu can cause swollen glands around your body. There can also be non-infectious diseases that can lead to swollen glands. I know some people who are so worried about swollen glands, that they constantly feel them over and over. Ironically, doing this can actually cause them to enlarge and become irritated.

The best way to see first hand where these glands are located on your body is to ask your physician at your next visit. They can physically show you where they are. Having swollen glands while having things like the cold is not unusual. But if you have swollen glands that do not return back to normal size after a week or two, or if they are accompanied by severe pain, seek the advice of your physician.

Swollen salivary glands can be a serious medical problem that isn't necessarily related to HIV infection. Only your physician can tell you whether you have this problem or not.

In summary, swollen lymph glands can be related to HIV infection, but they can be due to many other things as well. They are a very general response of your body to infection. Having swollen glands for a short period of time (like a few days) is nothing unusual. But if the swelling is prolonged, or very painful, seek the advice of your health care professional.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS



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