The lymphatic system is responsible to drain unwanted waste, toxins or cell debris from all parts of our body. To accommodate such an extensive task, there are lymph nodes stationed all over our body to collect these wastes so they can be processed and eliminated by our immune system. It is a very organized system where lymph nodes can be described as the dumpsites and the lymph is the equivalent of the trash collection truck. Occasionally, when the system gets faulty (obstruction of lymph) or there are overflowing of waste (during infection or cancerous origin), lymph nodes can swell up and this will give rise to various differential diagnoses depending on the affected area. I may want to get medical attention from doctors near me if I am experiencing such problem to rule out more sinister causes.
In the groin, also known as the inguinal region, has a set of lymph nodes draining the structures such as external genitalia (scrotum and penis in the male; labia and vulva in the female), lower anal canal, buttock, abdominal wall below the level of the umbilicus, thigh and medial side of the leg. Lymph nodes in the groin can be divided into superficial and deep, whereby the superficial group of nodes can be further divided into upper horizontal and lower vertical nodes. These lymph nodes will ultimately drain into the lateral aortic group in the abdomen.
If there are infectious sources at any of the drainage sites such as abscesses, infected ulcers or skin infections, the infectious organisms will be drained to the inguinal lymph nodes and trigger a series of immune cascades that leads to swollen nodes. The consistency of lymph nodes due to infectious causes is usually firm and rubbery, in addition to occasional skin redness around the nodes. In cases of tuberculosis infection (tuberculous lymphadenitis), the lymph nodes will appear to be connected and move as a unit, which is described as matted. If one constantly suffers from swollen lymph nodes all over the body and does not have any infectious sources, they could be contracted with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) infection which can be manifest as generalized inflammatory lymphadenopathy.
Another cause of swollen inguinal lymph nodes will be sexually transmitted diseases (STD). One who contracted with STD will usually present with bilateral lymph nodes swelling and there are higher chances for the lymph nodes to ulcerate especially with a syphilitic chancre. Apart from that, cancer of the drainage site can also lead to the swelling of lymph nodes in the groin due to the spreading of cancer cells. The common examples of cancer are melanoma, ovarian cancer, squamous cell carcinoma of the anus or testicular cancer. There are also cancers that can directly involve the lymph nodes in the body such as Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma. In relation to inguinal lymph nodes, they are more commonly involved in non-Hodgkin lymphoma rather than Hodgkin lymphoma. Swelling due to cancerous origin usually will be hard, immobile and painless.
In general, swollen lymph nodes in the groin usually return to normal size after the underlying condition gets treated. If you found any lump in your groin, you should visit your nearest clinic to get evaluated, especially in these situations:
- The swelling appeared without a source.
- The swelling does not subside for more than two weeks.
- Continuously increase in size.
- Lymph nodes feel hard or immobile.
- The swelling is accompanied by a persistent fever, unexplained weight loss, or night sweats.
- Exposed to unprotected sexual activity.