The lymph nodes behind the ears, in the neck and under the arms are some of the most notable lymph glands in the body. These glands store fluids and nutrients and help in filtering waste material out of the bloodstream as well as out from the body tissue. They also produce antibodies that help fight off foreign microorganisms. The lymph nodes will then absorb these damaging materials, which will cause their temporary enlargement. The lymph nodes are receptive to the different changes in the body, particularly those that disturb the immune system. Ear infections are one of them.
The infections that could cause a lymph node to swell could be viral, bacterial, or fungal. When the body has an infection such as in the ear, the cells will start to produce antibodies that will fight off against infection. The infection usually causes the lymph nodes to swell as they continuously work to produce more antibodies to seek out the infectious agents. The lymph nodes enlarge as they work to add more antibody production.
When the lymph nodes behind the ears become swollen, it is a sign that an ear infection is present. Eye, throat and scalp infections may also cause the lymph nodes behind the ears to swell.
Ear infections are one of the usual causes of swollen lymph nodes, particularly the lymph nodes under the jaw. Examples of ear infections are acute otitis media, otitis media with effusion, and otitis externa. These ear infections are more common in children.
Otitis externa, also referred to as the swimmer’s ear, is a fungal or bacterial infection in the front part of the ear canal. During the onset of the condition, the ear starts to itch. As the infection progresses, pain and drainage in the ear are experienced. Crusting around the ear’s opening may also be noticed. When swelling is not localized, it means that the infection has already spread beyond the ear canal. Once the infection has spread, it can reach other body parts like the jaw.
When a person has swimmer’s ear, the lymph nodes help to fight the infection. Once the infection is detected, the lymph nodes swell. The two lymph nodes under the jaw become swollen when an ear infection is present. That’s why a person with an ear infection may notice swelling in the jaw.
Children who are exposed to cigarette smoke can develop ear infections and swollen lymph nodes. When the toxins from the smoke are inhaled, it stimulates the immune cells to react. This reaction will then cause the lymph nodes to swell, together with the structures surrounding the eustachian tubes. The swollen nodes will now compress the eustachian tube and will result in middle ear infections.
During the first sign of infection, it is very important to visit your doctor immediately to prevent serious complications. In addition, for swollen lymph nodes, in particular, it must be evaluated to rule out medical conditions as swelling in the jaw may be caused by a tooth abscess or other medical problems that require treatment.