What causes a lump under the Jawline?

Swollen lymph nodes under jaw
Medically reviewed by Dr. Ola Tarabzuni

Key Takeaways

  • Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw can have various causes, including infections, inflammation, immune system disorders, and cancer.
  • Infections, such as bacterial or viral infections in the throat or mouth, are common causes of swollen lymph nodes under the jaw.
  • Dental problems such as gum disease or tooth decay can result in swollen lymph nodes.
  • Infections of the salivary glands can induce lymph node enlargement under the jaw.
  • Immune system illnesses, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, can cause swollen lymph nodes.
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw might indicate lymphoma or metastatic cancer.
  • Proper diagnosis by a healthcare professional is essential to determine the cause and appropriate treatment.
  • Treatment varies based on the underlying cause, including antibiotics for infections, dental treatments, management of immune system disorders, or specific cancer treatments.
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw may take weeks to resolve, but a healthcare professional should evaluate persistent swelling or severe symptoms.
  • Massaging swollen lymph nodes under the jaw is generally not recommended, as it may worsen inflammation or discomfort.

Overview

While lumps and bumps around your jawline may cause you to panic, the good news is they are often harmless. To learn the difference between a simple swelling and cause for concern, check out everything you need to know about swollen lymph nodes under the jaw.

Your body has many complex systems that work together to keep you healthy and your body working properly. One of these is your lymphatic system. 

You may notice that when you visit your local doctor with cold or flu symptoms, they will often run their hands along your neck, throat, and jaw. This is because the doctor is checking for an important symptom of infection: swollen lymph nodes. 

Lymph nodes are an important part of a larger system that keeps your body healthy. A swollen lymph node is often a sign of an infection, injury, or illness. A swollen lymph node can indicate something as mild as a cold or as serious as metastasized cancer.

Swollen lump under the jaw

One major reason for a lump under the jaw or chin can be due to lymph nodes swell and can be felt under your skin’s surface. In their normal state, nodes are not able to be felt. When lymph nodes detect a problem with the lymph fluid, they react and swell. These problems can include infection, illness, cancer, or as a response to injury.

When swollen, lymph nodes can swell from the size of a pea to the size of a cherry. Lymph nodes can also swell under the jaw. In most instances, nodes swell due to an infection, injury, or illness. Often, a swollen node indicates an infection in the area. A swollen node under the jaw can indicate an upper respiratory infection, cold, or flu.

Swollen lymph nodes under the jaw may feel tender to the touch and can even cause difficulty swallowing or moving your head in certain directions. Generally, lymph nodes over 1 cm in diameter are considered ‘abnormal.’

Swollen lymph nodes are not always a sign of a problem with your physical health. They are also known to swell due to stress.

A lump under the jaw may or may not be something serious. You must seek professional advice for this

Reasons for swollen lump under the jaw

  • Cold
  • Ear infection
  • Sinus infection
  • ear infection
  • Infected tooth
  • Skin infection
  • Strep throat
  • Tonsillitis
  • Flu
  • Mononucleosis
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • HIV infection
  • Anti-seizure and antimalarial drugs
  • Medication or allergic reactions to medication
  • Cat scratch fever
  • Gingivitis
  • Mouth sores
  • measles
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Sézary syndrome
  • Shingles
  • Cancer such as lymphoma (where the cancer begins in the lymphatic system) or the nodes will swell if cancer originating in other areas moves to the lymphatic system.

When more than one area of lymph nodes becomes swollen, it is called generalized lymphadenopathy. 

Generalized lymphadenopathy can be caused by

  • Strep throat
  • Chicken Pox
  • Certain medications
  • Immune system diseases 
  • Cancer such as leukemia and lymphoma
A lump under the jaw may indicate a potentially life-threatening situation, but an early diagnosis can save you.

Infected lymph nodes

While lymph nodes often swell due to an infection in their general area, it is also possible for the lymph node to become infected. Infected lymph nodes will swell and also produce additional symptoms.

Read more: Swollen lymph nodes behind the ear

Symptoms of infected lymph nodes under the jaw

  • Lymph nodes are swollen 
  • The infected area is tender
  • Nodes may be soft or matted together
  • Red skin in the infected area
  • Nodes may become filled with pus 
  • Fluid may drain from the nodes onto the skin

Cancerous lump

While not as common, swollen lymph nodes can result from a cancerous tumor. This can happen when cancer develops in another area of the body and spreads to the lymph nodes or when cancer originates in the lymph nodes. When cancer first forms in the lymph nodes, it is called Lymphoma. It is more common for cancer to first develop in another area of the body and then spread to the lymph nodes. 

This happens when cancer cells break down from a tumor and then travel through the lymphatic vessels via the lymphatic fluid. If they are not broken down in the nodes, they may begin to form a new tumor. 

When cancer travels through the lymphatic system, it affects the lymph nodes. In most cases, when cancer cells break away from the tumor, they can be broken down by the body. When cancer spreads to a new part of the body, it is called metastasis.

A lump may be due to a serious underlying condition. You may need professional advice for your condition.

Diagnosis of the swollen lump under the jaw

In most cases, your doctor will diagnose what is causing your swollen lymph nodes based on the other symptoms you are experiencing. For example, swollen lymph nodes under the jaw, difficulty swallowing, and inflammation in the throat may point to strep throat. 

It is when the lymph nodes are swollen without any other symptoms that the diagnosis is much more difficult.

Your doctor will likely ask you about your medical history in addition to a physical exam in order to make a diagnosis. You may also need to disclose any recent travel or animal encounters that could have led to your condition. 

In some cases, your doctor may order a blood test to look for abnormalities. They may also do an imaging test such as an MRI, CT scan, x-ray, or ultrasound. 

Although rare, a biopsy for your lump may be required. This test only requires a small number of cells to be removed from the lymph node with a needle. This test can look for cancer. 

Another possible diagnosis for lump under the jaw

Read more: Swollen Lymph Nodes on the Neck

While swollen lymph nodes are a common reaction to many minor illnesses in the body, they are not the only reason for lumps and bumps under the jaw.

Acne: Although common on the face, acne can also occur under the jaw. Acne is formed when pores become blocked with sebum, which is the oily substance secreted at the base of the hair follicle. The pores become swollen, red, and painful to the touch. 

Cyst: A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can form anywhere on the body, including under the jaw. A cyst will form a raised dome-like shape that is filled with fluid. Cysts can often be moved under the skin and may have a small dark dot on the top. A doctor should check any lump found on the skin. 

Lipoma: Unlike a cyst or pimple often filled with fluid, lipomas are actually fatty tissue growth. They can form anywhere on the body, including along the scalp. These growths are not cancerous and do not spread. Unlike swollen lymph nodes, these are not painful to the touch. Lipomas are growths of fatty tissue under the skin. The size of lipomas ranges from a pea to several inches across. You may only have one lipoma or several at once. 

Read more: Folliculitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Prevention

A lump under the jaw may also indicate cancer in some cases. Your doctor may recommend relevant tests.

How to Check Your Lymph Nodes Under the Jaw

In general, there is no reason to check for swollen lymph nodes. Doing this without the direction of your doctor could result in unnecessary stress at any small lump or bump. 

There are some circumstances where your doctor may ask you to check your lymph nodes periodically. This is often true in cases where you have been diagnosed with skin cancer. This is because one of the reasons lymph nodes will swell is because they have cancer cells in them. 

  • Start at the lymph nodes in front of the ear (1).  Use your fingertips to feel the area in a gentle circular motion 
  • Check your nodes in the order shown in the image above. Always start with the front of the ear and finish just above the collarbone. 
  • Check both sides of the body to compare for size. A swelling may only be the size of a pea. 
  • When checking your neck, tilting your head towards the side you are examining can help relax the muscles. 
  • Press your fingers under the muscle to look for swelling 
  • When checking above the collarbone, first hunch your shoulder and bring your elbows forward to relax your skin. 

Treatment of Swollen Lymph Nodes Under the Jaw

In order to treat a swollen lymph node, you need to treat the cause. Most swollen lymph nodes will resolve themselves once the initial reason for the swelling is treated. 

In the case of a viral infection, the nodes will swell once the body has naturally fought the infection off. Your doctor may advise that you take over-the-counter pain medication to combat the inflammation. 

 For a bacterial or fungal infection, the body will need antibiotics for the infection to resolve. 

In some cases, an injury causes the lymph node to swell. Scar tissue or other injuries can cause the node to drain improperly and swell. This may require further surgery to repair. 

Swollen lymph nodes caused by cancer will not shrink until the cancer has been completely treated. In some cases, your doctor may advise the lymph node to be removed. Your doctor will determine the best treatment options for you. 

You should not ignore it if you have a lump under the jaw for more than two weeks. Discuss with a doctor.

Speak to a Doctor

In most cases, swollen lymph nodes under the jaw or elsewhere in the body are not cause for concern. Instead of worrying yourself sick, why not connect with one of our doctors 24 hours a day? Cure your worry from the comforts of home with our team of North American doctors ready to help you whenever you need us. Talk to online doctors now! 

Is it normal for lymph nodes to swell on one side?

Yes, lymph node swelling can be unilateral or bilateral. This condition is called localized swelling of lymph nodes and is primarily an indication of viral infection. In such cases, there is no specific treatment, and it will go away on its own gradually.

How long do swollen lymph nodes under the jaw last?

In any case, lymph node swelling lasts approximately two weeks and resolves gradually within this time. It indicates the body’s immune system’s activity against the infection or illness.

Can you have swollen lymph nodes but not sick?

Suppose you don’t feel any apparent cause of the swelling of lymph nodes, like a cold, flu, injury, or infection. In that case, you must visit your doctor as soon as possible to diagnose the underlying health condition properly.

Can stress cause lymph nodes to swell?

Yes, in some cases, stress can also cause swelling of the lymph nodes. Although it is not a common symptom, some people experience it when anxious for a long time.

Can Covid cause swollen lymph nodes under the jaw?

Yes, COVID infection can cause swollen lymph nodes under the jaw if you are experiencing mild symptoms. However, it is not familiar to everyone, but some people can still be affected.

Should you massage swollen lymph nodes under the jaw?

No, it would be best not to massage swollen lymph nodes, which can increase inflammation and discomfort. Leaving the area as it is to self-heal is advised.

Your Doctors Online uses high-quality and trustworthy sources to ensure content accuracy and reliability. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and medical associations to provide up-to-date and evidence-based information to the users.

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  • American Cancer Society. Lymph Nodes and Cancer
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  • NHS. Swollen Glands

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