Swollen Occipital Lymph Node

The lymphatic system is a network made of organs, vessels and numerous lymph nodes located all over your body. The majority of your lymph nodes are located on the head and neck. The lymphatic system plays a very important role in your body’s ability to fight viral and bacterial infections, but also other causes of illnesses. Common areas, where your lymph nodes get swollen are in your neck, under the chin, in your armpits and in your groin.
When these lymph nodes get swollen, this means that something is not quite right with your body. Usually lymph nodes get swollen due to viral or bacterial infections, a condition that is known as lymphadenitis. In rare cases, lymph nodes can get swollen due to different types of cancer.

How does the lymphatic system of your head and neck looks like?
The lymphatic system of the head and neck consists of tonsils, several groups of lymph nodes located in different places on the head and neck, many lymphatic vessels and red bone marrow. All the above mentioned structures work together in order to filter, clean and drain the interstitial fluid. In this way they are able to destroy and get rid of any possible harmful pathogen that may infect this region of the body.

The head consists of eight groups of lymph nodes. They are named based on their location. The groups of lymph nodes that are located in the head include: anterior auricular, posterior auricular, parotid, facial, deep facial, lingual, retropharyngeal and occipital lymph nodes. Each group of lymph nodes varies in size and number.
The neck consists of five groups of lymph nodes. These groups also vary in size and number. The groups of lymph nodes located in the neck are: superficial cervical, anterior cervical, deep cervical, submental and submaxillary nodes.
The lymph nodes located on the surface are the one that are noticed first and usually they are also easily palpated on the neck, just inferior to the jaw.
There are also five tonsils that are located around the nasal and oral cavity. These tonsils are: two palatine tonsils, two lingual tonsils and one pharyngeal tonsil. Tonsils are a dens mass of lymphatic tissue which is covered with mucous membrane. The key role of the tonsils is to detect and destroy any possible pathogen that has entered the human body through air or food. They also get very easily inflamed and swollen in response to an infection.

Occipital lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system of your head, together with other seven groups of lymph nodes that are located in this region. They are located near the occipital bone of the skull, just outside of the skull, on the back of your head. As any other lymph node in the human body, their role is to filter, clean and drain the interstitial fluid from any pathogen that might have arrived into this part of the body. When an infection is present, these lymph nodes get swollen due to increased number of lymphocytes that are present inside of the node.

What can cause your occipital lymph nodes to get swollen?

The most common cause that leads to swelling of the occipital lymph nodes and all the other lymph nodes throughout the human body are infections like: ear infection, cold and flu, mononucleosis, tonsillitis, peritonsillar abscess, tuberculosis, abscessed or impacted tooth, etc.

Lymph nodes also get swollen due to certain autoimmune disorders, like: HIV/AIDS and rheumatoid arthritis.

Lymph nodes also get swollen due to certain types of cancer, like:
Cancers that can cause swollen lymph nodes include:
• Leukemia
• Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
• Hodgkin disease
• Other types of cancer that spread to the lymph nodules.

Certain medications like seizure medicine or typhoid immunization can also cause swollen lymph nodes.

Keep in mind that in cases of infection, the lymph nodes get swollen suddenly and they are also painful. However, in cases of cancer, the lymph nodes tend to get swollen slowly and usually they are painless.

Usually when these lymph nodes get swollen it means that they are doing their job as they should. The soreness will go away in a couple of days, while they can return to its normal size after a few weeks. But, keep in mind to seek medical help in cases when:
• The lymph nodes do not get smaller after a few weeks
• The lymph nodes continue to grow
• The lymph nodes are red and tender
• The lymph nodes are hard, irregular or even fixed to the surrounded area
• The swelling of the lymph nodes is accompanied by unexplained weight loss over a short period of time, night sweats and fever.

Your health care provider will ask a detailed medical history, probably will ask you if the lymph nodes appeared suddenly and if they are painful, or rather they tended to grow over time and are painless. Various questions regarding your medical history will help your doctor determine the real cause of the problem. He/She will also do complete physical examinations and order various tests like blood tests, X-rays, CT-scan or even lymph node biopsy.

The treatment will depend from its cause.


  1. I have myobacterial Tuberculosis. I have had a rare occurrence in 2014 where the Tuberculosis ran thru my body and out. Fevers, nightsweats, weight-loss. I was put on INH for 9 months. Within 6 months after the INH was done, I contacted myobacterial avrium, and then myobacterial gordonnae. I changed insurance and the infectious disease specialist did nothing for me. I have been on 7 different antibiotics in the last year. I contacted an ear infection and then ocular Tuberculosis. I have a hard swollen lymoh node on the left side of my occipital lobe. This node is getting larger. I also have swollen lymph nodes in my groun area. Some days I feel extra fluid in my body from this infection. I am a 60 year old woman. I moved to Michigan in 2012 and by the end of 2013, I started losing weight and having terrible nightsweats. My ear drains and the antibiotics have not ckeared up any of my infections. I recently changed insurance so I can see this infectious disease specialist that is interested in my case. Many urgent care doctors and this nee infectious disease specialist are upset that I didn’t get the right antibiotics from the 2nd infectious disease specialist I saw. I have an appointment on January 11th and I was told that I have atypical tuberculosis. This new infectious disease specialist became interested in my case after I broke my arm. He wanted to see me immediately but my insurance company would not authorize an out of network provider. I was standing at the desk and the specialist came out of his office and was very frustrated because the insurance company wouldn’t authorize blood tests. I am very frustrated as my immune system keeps breaking down and I still have nightswests and weigh 108 pounds.

    I had to move because the building I was living in was damp and wet and the walls were full of black mold. The owners finally put a new roof on after I moved. My apartment was condemned and so was the one above me. Water was in both of our ceilings and I could put my hand through the wall. The wall became so wet. I found tons of black mold. In addition, pigeons were living on the roof during the summer and the droppings would hest up from the sun and smell horrible on the asphalt alcove on the side of the wet wall and I had to keep all the windows shut with the air conditioner on. I read this all affects myobacterial Tuberculosis. I am worried about the fact that this has gotten out if control. My father was a TB carrier and eventually this got into his groun area and within 3 months he died. I just hope it’s not too late to get the right medication to correct this problem. I wss told that I had to live with this for the rest of my life. The woman in the apartment avove me still lives in the building. She now suffers from a severe lung infection and is on steroids. I truly believe that the mold and pigeon droppings contributed to both of our illnesses.

    • If you have moved, then hopefully the environmental causes will clear up. It sounds like your new specialist knows what they are doing and is committed to your case, so go ahead and tell them everything that you are experiencing. He or she specializes in this specific field, so they would be much better at giving an accurate diagnosis and treatment than I would be, especially since the internet is not an ideal way to diagnosis someone.


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