The lymphatic system plays an important role in maintaining immunity and the fluid balance in the body. It is a network of thin vessels, ducts, valves, nodes, and organs, that collectively strive to carry out these functions.
Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped glands that are part of the lymphatic system. While lymph nodes are located in various locations in the body, they are more concentrated in the armpits, in and around the neck, and in the groin.
Lymph nodes are very vital for the immune system, as they contain white blood cells. These nodes filter the lymphatic fluid or lymph that circulates throughout the lymphatic system. Viruses, bacteria, and other foreign particles in the lymph, are filtered and destroyed by the white blood cells in the nodes.
What are Inguinal Lymph Nodes?
As mentioned before, lymph nodes are located in different parts of the body; but are found in groups, in regions, like the neck, armpit, and groin. The lymph nodes that are located in the groin area are called inguinal lymph nodes. These lymph nodes are mainly found in the crease between the legs and the groin.
There are two types of inguinal nodes - deep and superficial. While deep lymph nodes are around three to five in number; there are around ten superficial inguinal nodes in the human body.
Superficial ones receive lymph from the penis, scrotum, vulva, vagina, perineum, gluteal region, lower abdominal wall, and the lower anal canal. Lymph from the superficial inguinal nodes drains into the deeper lymph nodes. Enlargement of groin lymph nodes could indicate an infection in the lower extremities of the body, or spread of anal or vulvar cancer.
Swollen Inguinal Lymph Nodes
Like other lymph nodes in the body, inguinal nodes too fight infection, and get inflamed in the process. The infection or injury can be localized or systemic. In most cases, swollen inguinal nodes could be due to an injury or infection in the lower limbs, groin, or genitals.
Though very rare, testicular cancer, lymphoma, or melanoma may also cause swollen lymph nodes in the groin. It has also been observed that immune system disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, may also cause swollen lymph nodes.
Sexually transmitted diseases, like genital herpes, chlamydia, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and gonorrhea, may also cause swollen inguinal lymph nodes. Pain may develop in case of enlargement of these glands. As the lymph nodes get swollen, they become noticeable.
Swollen lymph nodes can be felt through the skin, which is not usually possible with normal lymph nodes. In some cases, the swelling may subside within a short period of time, without treatment.
However, if there are many swollen lymph nodes, which are also painful, medical attention is needed. Such pain can be felt while touching the enlarged glands. If the pain is severe, even without touching the gland, it is an indication of a large swelling.
In general, swelling of inguinal lymph nodes is not considered a cause of concern, if the glands are small (less than 2 cm or 3/4 inch across). Such glands can be commonly found in children and young adults. However, if these glands are causing severe pain, or not diminishing in size, you must seek medical attention.
If such glands are hard, and are growing rapidly (in size or number); you must consult the doctor to find out the underlying cause, and the nature of the growth. It is always advisable to approach your doctor, as soon as you notice swollen lymph node(s).
Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.