Have you ever felt a hard lump on the side of your throat? These lumps can appear if you have an infection in the throat or the ears. Even an infected tooth can cause these hard lumps on the side of the throat to appear. The hard knot you feel is a lymph node (also called a gland) that has become swollen. 

The lymph system and immune response

The lymphatic system is critical to fighting disease. It is key to your body’s natural immune response to germs and other evil invaders. Your lymphatic system is made up of lymphatic organs, a network of vessels, and the lymph that circulates through the body.

  • Organs. Your thymus, bone marrow and spleen are the major organs of the lymph system organs. These are the parts of the system that produce the immune system T cells and B cells.
  • Lymph Nodes (Glands). These bits of tissue trap bacteria, viruses and other foreign substances as the lymph passes through the body. You hundreds of these bean sized nodes all over your body. You are probably most familiar with the ones that are on the throat, behind your ears, and under your jaw. This is why your doctor feels this area when you complain of a sore throat or earache. The dentist may palpitate this area if you have a toothache. These doctors are looking for signs of infection.
  • Lymph. Lymph is the fluid that bathes all of your cells. Lymph capillaries pick this fluid up and circulate it through the body. As is circulates, it can transport bacteria and move it to the nodes to be destroyed by while blood cells.

Why lymph glands swell

The lymph nodes are where you first recognize a problem with the lymph system. You may feel a lump in your armpit or feel a knot in the neck area. Most of the time, this is a sign your body is fighting an infection. The difficult part is identifying the source of the infection. t could be anything from an infected tooth to a sexually transmitted disease or even lupus. Usually the swelling goes down when the infection is treated.

When to see the ENT

Swollen lymph nodes (or glands) may need to be treated by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist. Chronic swelling of the lymph nodes can be a sign of a serious problem. Because of their highly specialized training, the ENT is the doctor to see if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fever over 104 degrees F
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Problems swallowing
  • Night sweats
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Reddened skin over top of the swollen lymph nodes
  • Large swollen nodes that are very tender, hard to the touch and do not reduce in size

Your ENT doctor not only treats your ears, nose and throat; they treat your lymphatic system too.