Our bodies have many vascular systems to circulate materials from or to different cells and tissues. The most popular is the systemic circulatory vascular system, which connects body cells to the heart and lungs via arteries and veins, but we have another important system with a similar function, the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system has two main functions, one is related to the gastrointestinal tract or gut. Here, it is useful to transport absorbed fat. But the more important function is acting as a “filter” of foreign organisms or material that either enters through our skin or natural orifices, and even for cancer cells if they travel from the site of origin. Our lymphatic system is formed by channels called lymph vessels and filters called lymph nodes.
This overall view can help us understand how a lymph node can be swollen. In a way, a swollen lymph node is like a clogged drain, and doctors think of it as such. The main point to be considered regarding any lymph node enlargement is the number of lymph nodes involved. If two non-neighboring lymph nodes are affected, it is called a generalized lymphadenopathy and has a separate set of diagnoses than isolated enlarged lymph nodes. The other point to be considered is where the clogging started from. We call this a “focus”. Other causes of lymph node enlargement may be related to the lymph nodes themselves, especially in metabolic diseases and autoimmune disease. After all, lymph nodes are an essential part of the body’s immune system.
What is special about the occipital lymph nodes
The occipital lymph nodes are located at the back of your head, at the upper part of your nape. When enlarged, they can be located anywhere form the middle of your hairline at the back to behind your ears. Anatomically speaking, the occipital lymph nodes drain your scalp and are more likely to enlarge due to a problem in the scalp. They may not be easily noticed when they become enlarged if you have long hair or if they are not painful.
Occipital lymph nodes are a part of the transverse group of cervical lymph nodes. They represent a stage before eventually draining, with the rest of the neck’s lymph nodes, into the deep cervical lymph nodes. Therefore, if they are swollen, your doctor will pay a special care to examine your neck lymph nodes and your scalp to understand the extent of the problem.