Lymph nodes are an extremely important part of our organism. As they widely spread throughout our body, they have a great influence on our health. The swelling of occipital lymph nodes is a signal for us that something wrong is happening in our body.
Read on and learn what the anatomy of occipital lymph nodes is, why the get swollen, and what the best possible treatments are.
The Anatomy of Occipital Lymph Nodes
Our lymph nodes are usually located in our neck, armpits, and groin area. Even seven hundred lymph nodes can be found in our body and only three to five of them are occipital lymph nodes, which are located at the back of your head, just behind your occipital bone of the skull.
Occipital lymph nodes have a very important function as they filter all the harmful substances which accumulate in your lymphatic vessels and run through your scalp. Therefore, due to lymph nodes various impurities, which may also include foreign parts or cancer cells, are removed from your body.
If you want to find your occipital lymph nodes, put your hand at the nape of your neck. Try to imagine a line which goes between the base of your ears and along the back of your head, your occipital lymph nodes are somewhere in the middle.
If your occipital lymph nodes are not swollen, it is very difficult to locate and find them. The swelling usually appears during an infection, when the lymph nodes produce more lymphocytes, which cause the blockage in lymphatic vessels and swelling. Once the infection is gone, the blockage clears and the lymph nodes return to their normal size. In a medical world swollen occipital lymph nodes are known as lymphadenopathy.
Swollen lymph nodes are always a signal that something bad is going on in our body. The most common reason for that is usually an infection and if after the infection your lymph nodes come back to a normal size, it was probably the cause of that.
However, if you don’t have any infection but your occipital lymph nodes are swollen, it is advisable to find the cause of it as swollen lymph nodes might be a sign of a more serious medical problem.
The Causes of Swollen Occipital Lymph Nodes
The swelling of lymph nodes or lymphadenitis happens due to their inflammation. Have a look at the most common causes of swollen occipital lymph nodes.
1. Bacterial Infections
Bacterial infections of the scalp are probably the cause number one of swollen occipital lymph nodes. Debris and toxins will drain through the occipital lymph nodes at the back of your head, which results in swelling and inflammation.
Bacteria such as staphylococcus and streptococcus are often responsible for infections, which cause the enlargement and swelling of the occipital lymph nodes. Bacterial ear infections may also lead to the lymph nodes swelling and should always be treated by a doctor. Otherwise, they may cause drainage from your ear or hearing problems.
2. Viruses and Fungus
Viral infections may cause swelling of occipital lymph nodes too. Quite a common virus is known as rubella or German measles. It leads to swelling of the glands in your neck and head.
Other viruses which may be responsible for the inflammation of occipital lymph nodes include mononucleosis, which may cause such symptoms as headaches, sore throat, fatigue, white patches on the tonsils, and fever.
Fungal infections of your scalp may lead to the swelling of occipital lymph nodes too. Apart from that you may experience other symptoms as well, such as scalp itchiness and dandruff, hair loss, or yellow crusts on your scalp.
3. Throat Infections
Throat infections very often lead to swollen and inflamed occipital lymph nodes. They are usually accompanied by sore throat, irritation, feeling of discomfort, or difficulty swallowing. In case of throat infections you may also notice white patches on your tonsil, or hoarseness.
Throat infections are usually caused by viruses and bacteria. In case of viruses you might manage to deal it on your own, but if some bacteria is the culprit of your swollen occipital lymph nodes, you will probably need antibiotics.
Tonsils are also a type of lymph nodes, which are located at the top of your throat and at the back of your mouth. They have a similar function to other lymph nodes, which means that they play an important role in filtering out bacteria and germs and that helps prevent throat infections.
When our tonsils get infected, they are swollen and inflamed. You may also experience difficulty swallowing, your jaw and throat may be tender, the pain may spread to your ears, and your occipital lymph nodes can be swollen too.
5. Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
Various sexually transmitted diseases such as mono, syphilis, or HIV may often lead to the swelling of occipital lymph nodes. Mono, however, is also known as the kissing disease, which means that it transmits through coughing, sneezing, and kissing.