What exactly do "swollen glands" mean? How soon after a new HIV infection can swollen glands appear?

Question

There is a lot of talk about how "swollen glands" are common in HIV'ers at ANY time during infection, even during the asymptomatic period and AFTER acute retroviral syndrome . Is this true?

Does this mean that it is possible or "normal" for swollen glands to start setting in only 3 months after being exposed to HIV infection?

And lastly, by "swollen glands" in reference to HIV infection, does that mean PALPABLE nodes or does it really mean swollen in every sense of the word?? (i.e. - enlarged, tender, etc.).

Any thoughts would be great!

Answer

I've addressed the issue of lymph nodes on MANY recent responses so I don't want to repeat all the response here. I'll address your two questions

  1. How soon after HIV infection can swollen nodes appear? Lymph nodes can swell very soon after any viral infection, including after just a few days. So swollen glands can certainly start setting in by 3 months, and in fact, set in much earlier! Swollen lymph nodes are a sign that the body is trying to fight off infections. They are often a good sign (see my other responses for times when one should be concerned about swollen lymph nodes).

  2. Does "swollen glands" mean that they are PALPABLE (i.e. you can feel them) or does it mean that they are enlarged and tender? Either of these responses are correct. A swollen lymph node can be either palpable and non-tender, or palpable and tender. Usually right after an infection, the lymph node grows so quickly that it puts pressure on its capsule and this in turn creates pain. In time, the pain subsides and you can be left with palpable lymph nodes which are no longer tender. We are most worried about lymph nodes if they are unusually large, and associated with systemic symptoms (fever, chills, night sweats, and weight loss).