Swollen glands are usually a sign the body is fighting an infection. Swollen glands caused by an infection will usually get better by themselves within 1 to 2 weeks.
Check if your glands are swollen
Swollen glands feel like tender, painful lumps:
- on each side of the neck
- under the chin
- in the armpits
- around the groin
Glands (known as lymph glands or lymph nodes) swell near an infection to help your body fight it.
Sometimes a gland on just one side of the body swells.
You might also have other symptoms, such as a sore throat, cough or high temperature.
Things you can do yourself
Swollen glands should go down within 1 to 2 weeks, depending on the cause.
You can help to ease the symptoms by:
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:
You have swollen glands and:
- they're getting bigger or they've not gone down within 1 week
- they feel hard or do not move when you press them
- you're having night sweats or have a very high temperature (you feel hot and shivery)
- you have no other signs of illness or infection
- you have swollen lymph glands just above or below your collar bone (the bone that runs from your breastbone to each of your shoulders)
Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if:
- you have swollen glands and you're finding it very difficult to swallow or have difficulty breathing
You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.
Causes of swollen glands
Swollen glands are:
- often caused by common illnesses like colds, tonsillitis and ear or throat infections
- sometimes caused by viral infections such as glandular fever
- rarely caused by anything more serious, like cancer of the blood (leukaemia) or lymph system (lymphoma)
Do not self-diagnose. See a GP if you're worried.
A GP will be able to recommend treatment depending on the cause, which might include antibiotics (antibiotics do not work on viral infections).
Page last reviewed: 29 September 2023
Next review due: 29 September 2026