The lymph nodes that are located in the back of the head are clinically called as the occipital lymph nodes. Their exact location in the human skull is near the occipital bone. Much like other lymph nodes located throughout the human body, the occipital lymph nodes are found to play an active role in the immune defense system of the human body.
The term “swollen glands” refers to enlargement of one or more lymph nodes. The medical term for swollen lymph nodes is lymphadenopathy.
Each occipital lymph node is small in size. The shape of an occipital lymph node is like a bean. These bean sized nodes are connected to each other using the lymphatic vessels.
The lymph nodes produce some white blood cells. There is a network of occipital lymph nodes and the lymphatic vessels.
This network of the lymphatic nodes and vessels work against the foreign agents entering the human body. Various bacteria, infection-causing agents, germs and foreign substances are trapped in the lymphatic network.
The lymphocytes work on these trapped substances in the lymphatic network. The lymphocytes kill the foreign infection-causing agents. A mass of white blood cells is formed by the lymphocytes after killing the infectious agents.
The number of lymphocytes within the lymph nodes may increase in times of lymphatic infections. This is the primary reason leading to the swelling of the lymphatic nodes, occipital as well as the supraclavicular.
The exact location of the occipital lymph nodes is on the outer part of the occipital bone. They are not located within the skull itself. These lymphatic nodes are designed to perform the function of a filter.
The nodes filter the fluid that is passing through the lymphatic vessels, These vessels form a network and are running through the human scalp. These nodes catch the foreign agents passing through them.
Eventually, as the foreign agents get destroyed, the lymph (lymphatic fluid) gets mixed into the bloodstream. The impurities and foreign agents detected by the lymphatic nodes are eventually filtered out into the liver. The liver then performs the function of removing them outside the body.
The lymphatic system plays a significant role in providing immunity to the human body. There is a dense network of lymphatic nodes throughout the body.
However, damage to these lymphatic nodes might become a matter of concern. Let us now look at the various topics related to the same.
What Is Lymphatic System?
The immune system plays an essential role in the functioning of the human body. The lymphatic system forms an integral part of the immune system. The lymph nodes appear throughout the human body.
Their principal function is to help the human body recognize and fight germs, infections and other foreign agents.
We can feel the presence of lymph nodes in some regions of the body especially when they are swollen. These body areas mainly consist of the armpits, back of the head, neck, above the clavicle, groin region, etc.
The lymph nodes that are present above the clavicle are clinically termed as the supraclavicular lymph node. The ones that are located at the back of the human head are called as occipital lymph nodes.
Common areas where the lymph nodes can be felt (with the fingers) include:
- Neck (there is a chain of lymph nodes on either side of the front of the neck, both sides of the neck, and down each side of the back of the neck)
- Under the jaw and chin
- Behind the ears
- On the back of the head
What Are The Causes Of Swollen Occipital Lymph Node?
Clinically, it is proved that the swelling of the lymphatic nodes is a proof of the fact that certain infectious or foreign agents are dwelling inside the human body.
It is believed that the various toxins, harmful particles, and debris that drain from the scalp can be one of the causes of an infection. It might further lead to the swelling of the occipital lymph nodes.
Occipital Lymph Node Cancer Symptoms
A cancerous growth in the human body can be another cause leading to the swelling of the occipital lymph nodes. However, the good thing is that if your occipital lymph nodes have swollen due to cancer, it will not spread to other parts of your body.
The movement and growth of cancer cells in case of the lymphocytes and the lymphatic network is called metastasis. However, it is a noteworthy point that the cells and infection can metastasize to the lymphatic system from the other parts of the human body.
However, the incidences wherein lymph nodes are affected due to cancer is very rare. The swelling of the lymph nodes is usually the outcome of common problems. These problems mainly consist of particles like lice, dandruff or ringworm.
A cut or abrasion in that area or a fungal infection may lead to swelling of occipital lymph nodes. Infections in ears or throat may also cause swollen occipital nodes.
Certain medications like seizure medicine or typhoid immunization can also cause swollen lymph nodes.
Causes Swollen Lymph Nodes
Infections are the most common cause of swollen lymph nodes. Infections that can cause them include:
- Abscessed tooth
- Injured or impacted tooth
- Infection of the Ear
- Flu and other infections
- Swelling (inflammation) of gums
- Skin infections
- Mouth sores
- Mouth ulcers
- Sexually transmitted illness
Cancers that can cause swollen lymph nodes include:
- Hodgkin disease
- Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Many other cancers may also cause this problem.
Immune or autoimmune disorders that can cause swollen lymph nodes are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis(RA)
Certain medicines can cause swollen lymph nodes, including:
- Seizure medicines such as phenytoin
- Typhoid immunization
It is necessary to make a note of the following points as well:
- Which lymph nodes are swollen depends on the cause.
- It also depends on the area and the body parts involved.
- Swollen lymph nodes that appear suddenly and are painful are usually due to injury or infection.
- Slow, painless swelling may be due to cancer or a tumor.
When Should You See The Doctor?
The phenomenon of swelling of occipital lymph nodes should not always be a cause of worry. In the majority of the cases, this is an indication that your lymph nodes are functioning properly and doing their job in a proper manner.
This also indicates that they are actively catching the infectious agents, debris or other foreign organisms.
However, there are some rare cases which might need some medical consultation. In case if the swollen lymph nodes do not return to their original size or the regular size in maximum a week or two then it is advisable to consult a doctor or a physician.
It is vital to visit a medical practitioner in case the lymph nodes remain swollen for more than four weeks.
It is also recommended to seek immediate medical assistance in scenarios of continuous and gradual increase in the size of the occipital lymph nodes. The patients suffering from other symptoms along with the swelled lymph nodes should visit the doctor immediately.
These symptoms mainly include fever, burning sensation and night chills. Experiencing other symptoms along with swollen lymph nodes is a sign of lymphoma, cancer of the lymph nodes.
Here are some other situations when you should call your doctor or consult your doctor :
- Your lymph nodes are getting bigger and are red and tender.
- You have unexplained weight loss with night sweats.
- Your lymph nodes feel irregular or hard.
- The lymph nodes are not getting pressed and are fixed in place.
- There is continuous fever along with pain in the lymph nodes.
It is mandatory to consult your family physician or a pediatrician if your child has a swollen lymph node that is larger than 1 centimeter in diameter.
What All To Expect On Visiting A Doctor?
It is a wise decision to visit a doctor on having some unexpected symptoms in case of swollen lymph nodes and glands. The doctor is supposed to follow a questionnaire and perform a physical examination to find the occurrence of any specific features which might be the cause of critical medical conditions like cancer.
The doctors might ask the following questions:
- What is the severity of pain accompanying the swelling?
- Is there any itching around the swelled nodes?
- Is there any burning sensation in the area of swelling?
- What other symptoms are accompanied along with swelling?
- Is there any family history of lymphatic swelling?
- Do the lymph nodes swell periodically?
- Do you feel any pain when you press on those nodes.?
The doctor might examine for the redness of the area where the lymph nodes have been swollen up. He might check for the unevenness of the underlying skin tissues. If the doctor suspects anything serious, then he might ask for some tests to be done.
These tests commonly consist of the following:
- Chest x-ray
- Liver-spleen scan
- Blood tests
- Lymph node biopsy
- Liver function tests
- Complete blood count
- Urine tests
After going through the reports of the above-stated trials, the doctor will suggest some remedy for the problem under consideration.
Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Swollen Occipital Lymph Nodes
1. Cold Compress
A cold compress is one of the most effective home treatments for occipital lymph node swelling. It pulls away from the heat from the sores and provides calmness.
2. Epsom Salt Bath
Epsom salt mixed with lukewarm water helps in cleaning up the sores and gives a cooling effect.
Lemon juice is proved to be having positive results in treating occipital lymph node swelling.
4. Aloe Vera Juice
It reduces the swelling, itching and helps in cooling the sores and blisters.
5. Baking Soda
This is an old home remedy used to treat cold sores and blisters.
6. Natural Oils
There are quite a few natural oils that will help in treating a lot of skin diseases. Applying olive, tea tree, jojoba, Vitamin E or rosemary oil helps in curing occipital lymph node swelling.
7. Black Coffee
Drinking cold black coffee on mouth sores is a good home remedy to reduce mouth occipital lymph node swelling.
8. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is another effective home remedy for swollen lymph nodes. It helps in creating an alkaline environment. This proves fruitful in maintaining a balanced pH of the body fluids.
9. Managing Stress
Stress is a primary cause of almost all illnesses. Stressful life increases the chances of occipital lymph node swelling. It is better to avoid stress.
Honey is a natural home remedy used for the treatment of all types of skin infections. It is known to play a role in curing occipital lymph node swelling as well.
Garlic has anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce swelling in the lymph nodes. This antibiotic food also helps cleanse the system, ease symptoms and promote healing.
Thus, we can conclude that the lymphatic system is an integral part of the internal body mechanism. Any severe damage to it can create problems. Therefore, it is a wise decision to consult a doctor in case of damage to the lymphatic network.