One of the critical components of the immune system is the lymphatic system. The lymph nodes are to be found throughout the body and their work involves helping the body in recognizing and fighting germs, foreign substances and infections.
Location of the occipital lymph node
There are different kinds of lymph nodes present in the body depending on their location. Occipital lymph nodes are those lymph nodes that are located at the back of the head(Just behind the skull is a bone known as the occipital bone and it happens to have nodes near it).
Occipital lymph nodes are small in size and they have a certain resemblance to the shape of beans. What connects them are lymphatic vessels. One of the functions of the occipital lymph nodes is production of a kind of white blood cells known as lymphocytes which are involved in fighting and destroying disease-causing organisms. Foreign substances that have been trapped in the occipital lymph nodes also find themselves on the receiving end from the lymphocytes.
Why occipital lymph nodes swell
A swollen lymph node is an indication of the presence of an infection in the body. In the case of a swelling in the occipital lymph node, the part of the body that is likely to be infected is either the head or the scalp. This would most likely have come about as a result of debris and toxins draining from the scalp, thereby causing the infection which led to the occipital lymph node swelling.
A swelling in the occipital lymph node could also be caused by the presence of dandruff, ringworm or lice especially when the area hosting these foreign bodies gets a fungal infection, an abrasion or a cut causing the occipital lymph nodes to swell. Swelling of these lymph nodes may also be as a result of ear or throat infections.
Cancer could also be another possible cause of a swelling in the occipital lymph nodes. This is because cancer can cause the lymph nodes to enlarge. This sort of cancer can easily be contained because cancerous cells in the occipital lymph nodes do not spread. But rarely does swelling in the occipital lymph come about as a result of cancer.
How the process of swelling occurs in the occipital lymph nodes
At the onset of an infection, the occipital lymph nodes ramp up production and release of lymphocytes which consequently leads to the size of the node growing exponentially. When you experience an occipital lymph node that is swollen, this is usually the explanation behind it.
After the foreign bodies and cells have been destroyed, draining of the lymph takes place. The impurities and the lymph then get entry into the bloodstream and are eventually filtered out heading into the liver.
When a swelling in the occipital lymph node is a cause for worry
In view of the fact that occipital lymph nodes routinely swell in the course of fighting infection, when it happens it should not always be taken as being a cause of concern. In fact after fighting infections and disease-causing organisms, the lymph nodes should return to the usual size in a couple of days. But if the swelling extends to more than four weeks and more, then a doctor should be consulted. This is especially so if the swollen nymph nodes are accompanied by pain, fever and/or night chills. This could be a symptom of a certain kind of a lymph node cancer known as lymphoma. In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms, below are more symptoms which should prompt you to consult a doctor immediately:
- The lymph nodes are increasing in size as well as reddening and getting tender.
- When felt or touched, the lymph nodes seem hard or irregular and in a fixed position.
- You have experienced sudden weight loss accompanied by night sweats.
In the case of children, swollen lymph nodes measuring more than one centimeter in diameter should impel you to visit a doctor immediately.
Diagnosis and Treatment
During the diagnosis, the doctor will perform a physical examination in order to look for or rule out other conditions that may be causing the swelling and pain. Other tests may be conducted including a scan of the liver spleen, blood tests and a biopsy of the lymph node. The chest may also be x-rayed.
In case, the swelling is as a result of an infection, the prescription will be antibiotics. An infection that fails to respond positively to the antibiotics will most likely turn out to be an MRSA infection though more tests would be needed to confirm this.
In case of a fungi infection, anti-fungal treatments and creams will be prescribed. And if the infection is as a result of ringworms or lice, the scalp will need treatment for the same. Should the cause be cancer, the cancer’s origins will require to be investigated and treatment given. The lymph nodes that have been affected in this case would also need to be removed.