Enlarged Lymph Nodes in Lungs

Our bodies have a network of lymph nodes and lymph vessels, which is part of our immune system. It works by collecting and removing waste material, fluid and other materials like bacteria and viruses that are in our body tissues out of the bloodstream. Some lymph nodes are embedded deep in the body like those around bowels and between lungs to filter the fluid in those areas. When something goes wrong in your body like an infection, cancer or injury, the lymph nodes in the affected areas become enlarged. This article will focus on the enlarged lymph nodes in lungs.

Enlarged Lymph Nodes in Lungs

Lymph nodes swell because they are trying to filter out the unhealthy cells. Some of the causes of lymph nodes in lungs enlarging include:

1. Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory disease that affects several parts of the body. It mostly attacks the lymph nodes and the lungs. People suffering from sarcoidosis in lungs develop mass nodules (granulomas) that comprise inflamed lung tissues, which might alter the normal functioning and structure of lungs.

The symptoms vary depending on where the disease attacks but most patients complain of shortness of breath, fatigue and dry cough. Other symptoms include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in lungs and chest
  • Tender reddish patches or bumps on the skin
  • Blurry vision or red and teary eyes
  • Tender and enlarged lymph nodes in the groin, armpits and neck
  • Hoarse voice
  • Pain in feet, hands and other bone areas as a result if cysts formation in bones
  • Enlarged liver
  • Kidney stone formation
  • Missed or abnormal heart beats, inflammation of the covering of the heart or heart failure
  • Effects on the nervous system like: seizures, meningitis and hearing loss or psychiatric problems like psychosis, depression and dementia.

There is no particular cure for sarcoidosis. However, patients can be given medication to decrease the symptoms but in most cases the symptoms will clear out on their own. You will be advised to practice healthy living if you have this condition.

2. Metastatic Lung Cancer

When cancer cells in the lungs make their way to the lymphatic system, they are carried to the lungs’ lymph nodes where they can lodge and grow.

Symptoms are rare but some of the symptoms of cancer cells moving to the lymph nodes include:

  • Enlarged lymph nodes in lungs that cause shortness of breath
  • Swelling above your collar bone or in the neck
  • Hoarseness as a result of pressure on the nerves exerted by enlarged lymph nodes

The state of your general health and the level of your lung cancer will determine the mode of treatment. If the cancer has spread to a few reachable areas, surgery can be suggested. However, if it has moved to deeper regions, chemotherapy or radiotherapy is used.

3. Lupus

Lupus is a chronic disease that is marked by inflammation. It occurs when your own immune system attacks your organs and tissues. The inflammation can attack different parts of the body like the lungs, heart, brain, blood cells, kidneys, skin and joints.

Some symptoms develop suddenly while others take time to develop, some are temporary, others permanent. Most people with this condition get mild diseases that are characterized by flares where the symptoms become worse and then reduce or even disappear for some time. The general symptoms include:

  • Headaches, memory loss and confusion
  • Dry eyes
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fingers turning blue or white when exposed to cold or when going through stressful times
  • Lesions on the skin that become worse when exposed to the sun
  • Butterfly shaped rash on the cheeks and the nose bridge
  • Joint stiffness, pain and swelling
  • Fever and fatigue

There is no cure for lupus. However, there are drugs to decrease and manage the symptoms, like NSAIDs, antimalarial drugs, corticosteroids or immunosuppressants.

4. Tuberculosis

This infection mostly affects the lungs but for people with HIV/AIDS it spreads to other parts of the body like lymph nodes and kidneys. It has various forms and their symptoms vary:

Primary pulmonary tuberculosis

  • Problems in gaining weight
  • Poor appetite
  • Night sweats
  • Chest pain
  • Cough

Post-primary tuberculosis

  • General sick feeling
  • Chest pain
  • Poor appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Coughing with discolored sputum; as the disease progresses, the patient coughs blood sometimes in large quantities
  • Shortness of breath
  • Serious breathing issues

Extra-pulmonary tuberculosis

Depending on where the tuberculosis has affected, the symptoms vary:

  • The lymph nodes: You get enlarged lymph nodes at the base of the neck or sides
  • The joints and bones: The knees, hips and spine will have the infection and joints will be swollen and painful
  • Genitourinary tuberculosis: Pain is felt between the hip and ribs; frequent passing of urine, discomfort or pain when urinating and presence of blood in the urine

Disseminated or miliary tuberculosis

  • Lung issues like chest pain, shortness of breath, cough
  • Other symptoms like weakness, weight loss, night sweats or fever

In some cases the bacteria can spread throughout the body and show no symptoms. However, if symptoms do show up, it could include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Skin rashes
  • Scrotal masses
  • Painful joints
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Visual difficulties
  • Headaches

Tuberculosis is treated with a combination of drugs that are taken for 6 months. Depending on the form of tuberculosis you have, the doctor will advise you on which medication to take.

5. Silicosis

This is a lung disease that results from inhaling silica dust. There are 3 types of silicosis namely:

  • Chronic silicosis occurs in people who have been exposed to small quantities of silica dust for over 20 years. The dust causes one to have enlarged lymph nodes in lungs and feel chest pain. Some people even have trouble breathing.
  • Accelerated silicosis occurs in people who have been exposed to silica dust over a short period (5-15 years) but in larger quantities. Symptoms include swelling of the lungs, occurring faster than in chronic silicosis.
  • Acute silicosis occurs in people who have been exposed to very large quantities of silica over a short period of time. Their lungs swell and are filled with fluid. Symptoms include weight loss, shortness of breath and coughing. There is no specific cure for silicosis, but patients are advised to avoid irritants, remove the source of silica and quit smoking.

6. Histoplasmosis

This disease occurs when you breathe in spores of Histoplasma capsulatum fungus. Most people do not get any symptom, only mild flu-like signs.

If symptoms occur, they include:

  • Red skin bumps mainly on lower part of the legs
  • Mouth sores
  • Joint pain
  • Chest pain and coughing
  • Chills and fever

The infection stops being active for a short period of time during which the symptoms decrease. For some people the infection is chronic. The symptoms in this case will include:

  • Shortness of breath and chest pain
  • Coughing, sometimes coughing blood
  • Sweating and fever

In cases where the infection spreads to the entire body, the symptoms are:

  • High fever
  • Neck stiffness and headaches as a result of inflammation in the brain covering
  • Chest pain as a result of inflammation of heart lining

In most cases the infection will fade away without any treatment. However, if the infection lasts for more than a month visit, your doctor and get medications.

7. Other causes

There are other causes for your enlarged lymph nodes in lungs, including:

  • Cancers, like esophageal cancer, thyroid cancer or breast cancer
  • Mediastinal lymphoma, like primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma
  • Some non-lymphomatous pulmonary lymphoid disorders, like angiommuoblastic lymphadenopathy, lymphomatoid granulomatosis or castleman disease
  • Infective aetiology like thoracic histoplasmosis or pulmonary infection
  • Occupational lung disease like chronic Beryllium lung disease or coal worker’s pneumoconiosis
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