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What is an Enlarged Neck?

By Erin J. Hill
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An enlarged neck refers to any swelling of the neck itself or of the internal structures within the neck. Lymph nodes, the thyroid gland, and other important systems are found inside the base of the neck along with vocal cords and blood vessels. There are any number of reasons these things may become swollen. The most common causes of an enlarged neck are injury and illness.

Symptoms of an enlarged neck may become apparent after an injury to the area takes place. This usually involves some type of blunt force, or getting hit in the neck. Most occurrences of neck injury come as a result of accidents, such as those involving an automobile. The neck may swell slightly or severely and be accompanied by pain, redness, and sometimes bruising or bleeding. All neck injuries should be checked by a doctor because internal bleeding can occur.

The most common cause of an enlarged neck is a goiter or enlarged thyroid nodules. These are caused by a swelling of the nodules located around the thyroid gland or a swelling of the thyroid itself. In the majority of cases, swollen nodules are a the result of a thyroid disorder, which can be fixed with proper treatment in many instances. A swollen thyroid can also indicate a thyroid disorder or a lack of iodine in the diet. In some rare cases, this type of enlarged neck could be an early indication of thyroid cancer. For this reason goiters and swelling around the base of the neck should be checked by a doctor.

Swollen lymph nodes may also cause an enlarged neck. Most times enlarged lymph nodes are caused by infection in the body, such as a cold or flu virus. Even something as simple as a pimple can cause the lymph nodes to swell in the immediate area. All lymph nodes or swollen areas of the neck should be investigated by a doctor because in rare cases they may indicate cancer, such as non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Remedies to help an enlarged neck vary based on the underlying cause. Medications may help with infections of thyroid disorders, while swelling due to injury will likely subside on its own as it heals. Sometimes there is no known cause for neck swelling. At other times, mild swelling may be due to water retention, which results from not drinking enough fluids or consuming too much sodium. Any prolonged or severe swelling should be investigated by a doctor.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon252715 — On Mar 06, 2012

Can being punched in the neck cause a goiter?

By Catapult — On Jul 16, 2011

@starjo- I have known people, more acquaintances than close friends, with neck swelling issues. Because these people were also somewhat overweight and did not eat healthily, I think they had a similar cause for neck swelling. It is probably becoming a more common cause as obesity continues to grow.

By StarJo — On Jul 16, 2011

My mother became very depressed after losing her job due to downsizing. The state of the economy would not allow her to find another job easily, and in her despair, she turned to overeating.

Eating potato chips and slugging down soda led to water retention. The sodium content of the chips plus the diuretic effect of the soda led to the retention, because she wasn’t consuming enough pure fluids like water and fruit juice.

She packed on quite a few pounds, but the swelling in her neck was downright unusual. She visited her doctor, worried that she might have cancer. The doctor reassured her it was just water retention, and she suggested that she change her diet.

By Perdido — On Jul 15, 2011

I know that it may not be medically true, but I have found that getting a flu shot wards off all other cold-related illnesses for the whole season. The year when the flu shot was only for swine flu, I skipped it, because I feared it wouldn’t work for all other types.

I should’ve gotten it, because I got very sick multiple times that season. I got strep throat twice and acute bronchitis once. Though I waited four or five days for these conditions to disappear, I ended up going to the doctor each time, because the symptoms only worsened. The strep enlarged my neck glands because of the infection.

During my final sickness, I only got extreme malaise and swollen lymph nodes in my neck. It was very weird that these were my only symptoms, so I waited it out, and sure enough, they went away after a few days. I would recommend, though, that anyone with swollen glands go to the doctor quickly, because you will improve so much faster with medications.

By wavy58 — On Jul 14, 2011

My brother recently got a fever and sore throat that enlarged the lymph nodes in his neck. He looked rather beefy, as if he were taking steroids. He said he could feel the fluid in his neck.

I drove him to the doctor, because the fever had made him weak and a bit loopy. She felt his glands and commented that they were definitely swollen. She checked his throat and found that he had an upper respiratory infection.

She gave him a shot of antibiotics and steroids. I thought it weird to give someone who already has a beefy neck steroids, but I know nothing about medicine. She also prescribed more antibiotics and antihistamine, as well as pain pills and cough syrup. After one day, the swelling had gone down a lot.

By cloudel — On Jul 14, 2011

My sister’s neck was swollen due to her thyroid gland. It had swollen so much that it had become hard for her to swallow. She was hesitant about having surgery to remove it because prom was coming up, and she didn’t want a scar showing that night.

Of course, my parents made her go ahead with the surgery. She got put to sleep for it, and the surgeon made a four-inch long cut in her neck, on top of her thyroid. He carefully removed the entire gland, being sure to not damage her nerves and blood vessels.

The surgeon put a small tube into the incision to keep blood and fluids from building up there. He removed it after two days. Since prom was a month away, she had time to recover enough to go. She found a beautiful black lace scarf to cover up her scar that went perfectly with her dress, so she was happy.

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