Neck Swelling

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Any swelling on the neck causes concern. Yet most swellings aren't serious. Follow this chart if you have any swelling or lumps on your neck.

SYMPTOMS DIAGNOSIS SELF-CARE
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1. Do you have lumps or swelling on both sides of your neck?


No

Go to Question 4.*

Yes

2. Do you have a fever, sore throat, cold or flu symptoms?


Yes

This may be an ENLARGED LYMPH NODE caused by an infection of STREP, MONONUCLEOSIS or simple SORE THROAT.

If the sore throat is severe, or if you also have stomach pain, a red rash, fever or white patches on the back of your throat, call your doctor right away. Treat less severe symptoms with over-the-counter cold and flu medicines. These include decongestants, antihistamines and analgesics, such as acetaminophen. If the lumps don't shrink within two weeks, or if one becomes very large and tender, see your doctor as soon as possible.

No

3. Are the lumps getting larger, or have they been on your neck for longer than two weeks?


Yes

The lumps may be INFECTED LYMPH NODES or possibly CANCEROUS LYMPH NODES, such as in HODGKIN'S DISEASE.

See your doctor right away.

No

*4. Do you have swelling in the back of your neck on one or both sides?


No

Go to Question 7.**

Yes

5. Do you have a skin infection or rash on your scalp?


Yes

These swellings are probably lymph nodes reacting to the SKIN INFECTION.

Treat the skin infection with a topical antibiotic ointment. If the lymph nodes do not shrink in two to three weeks, see your doctor.

No

6. Do you have a rash on your face or a fever?


Yes

You may have a viral illness or, rarely, GERMAN MEASLES (RUBELLA).

If you have a facial rash, see your doctor right away. Treat the fever with over-the-counter fever medicine, such as acetaminophen, until you can see your doctor. Stay away from pregnant women. German measles can harm unborn children and cause complications, such as pneumonia.

No

**7. Do you have swelling behind and over your jaw on one or both sides?


Yes

This type of swelling may be from MUMPS, a disease caused by a virus that attacks the salivary glands.

See your doctor right away.

No

8. Do you have swelling underneath your chin or directly in the middle of your neck?


Yes

You may have a THYROGLOSSAL DUCT cyst or abscess, a problem with your THYROID GLAND.

See your doctor.

No

9. Is there a soft swelling on the front of your neck above and between the collarbones?


Yes

You may have an ENLARGED THYROID, a GOITER or THYROIDITIS, also called HASHIMOTO'S DISEASE, an inflammation of the thyroid gland. This may also be a sign of THYROID CANCER or other THYROID DISEASES.

See your doctor right away.

No

For more information, please talk to your doctor. If you think the problem is serious, call right your doctor right away.

This tool has been reviewed by doctors and is for general educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for medical advice. The information in this tool should not be relied upon to make decisions about your health. Always consult your family doctor with questions about your individual condition(s) and/or circumstances. Source: American Academy of Family Physicians. Family Health & Medical Guide. Dallas: Word Publishing; 1996.

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