Swollen Occipital Lymph Nodes

Your lymphatic system is a part of your immune system, but do you know that sometimes the tiny lymphoid organs get swelled up? There are over 300 lymph nodes present in your head and cervical region, out of which the occipital lymph node, sometimes referred to as the posterior cervical lymph node, is one of the most common lymph nodes that can be felt if swollen. However, there are various reasons for this. 

So, head down below to know more about the cause of swollen occipital lymph nodes.


What Are Occipital Lymph Nodes?

Occipital lymph nodes are located at the back of your skull and filter the lymphatic fluid from the scalp and neck regions. They can get swelled up due to various reasons. The symptoms of swollen occipital lymph nodes or occipital lymphadenopathy are:

  • Pain and tenderness at the base of your skull or back of the neck.
  • Swelling, redness, and lump at the base of your skull or head.
  • The affected area feels warm to the touch.
  • Fevers or chills along with fatigue or weakness.  

What Causes Swollen Occipital Lymph Nodes?

Swollen occipital lymph nodes can be caused by infections, injury, diseases or disorders, and metastasis or cancer. Some causes of occipital lymphadenopathy are discussed in detail below.


Bacterial infections can cause swelling in the occipital lymph nodes. According to one study, cervical lymph node tuberculosis is the typical presentation of head and neck TB. 

Fungal infections, such as ringworm, on the scalp, cervical, or facial region can also trigger swelling in the occipital lymph nodes.

Virus infections like Rubella or German measles can trigger swelling in the occipital lymph nodes, accompanying other symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, rashes, and runny nose. Another viral infection, mononucleosis, caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, triggers swelling in the lymph nodes, especially around the cervical, arm, or groin area. This condition can further develop complications like an enlarged spleen. 

The infections can spread via your blood or lymphatic vessels, triggering inflammation and swelling.

Inflammatory Conditions

Swollen occipital lymph nodes can also be caused by inflammatory conditions, such as psoriasis, which causes beta-hemolytic streptococcal infection. It may manifest as a dry, red, itchy, or scaly scalp, causing inflammation in the occipital lymph nodes. 

Rubella is another skin condition that inflames the occipital nodes and causes symptoms like dry skin, body pain, and fever. Other conditions like eczema or dermatitis also lead to occipital lymphadenopathy. 

Trauma or Injury

An injury or trauma to the head or cervical region can cause swollen occipital lymph nodes. The skin break caused by injury or trauma may allow bacteria to enter and cause inflammation and infections. 


Although metastasis is uncommon in the occipital region, occipital nodes are associated with a high risk of distant metastasis like lung cancer, thyroid cancer, and sweat gland tumors. It may also develop due to skin cancer, scalp lipoma, or other malignancies. However, cancer can spread and reach occipital lymph nodes and can cause inflammation, swelling, obstruction of lymph nodes, or lymphedema. 

Autoimmune Diseases

Many autoimmune disorders cause the occipital lymph nodes to swell. Your body attacks your own healthy cells by activating white blood cells, leading to swelling in the lymph nodes. Common autoimmune disorders that trigger swelling in the occipital lymph nodes are rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Still’s disease. 

Systemic Diseases

Many health conditions, like Kawasaki disease, cause swelling in the lymph nodes. The disease is also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome. 

Castleman disease is another health condition in which the immune system becomes hyperactive even if the bacteria or virus is gone. This causes chronic hyper-inflammation that enlarges and inflames the lymph nodes. 


Sometimes, lymphadenopathy occurs due to unknown stimuli, which can trigger normal cells to become lymphoma cells and proliferate autonomously. This may be called idiopathic lymphadenopathy. It may be due to dysregulation of the immune system, imbalance in cytokine activity, drug reaction, serum sickness, genetic predisposition, or environmental triggers that cause swelling. 

Head Lice

Head lice are tiny insects that bite your scalp. As a result, intense itching occurs, which leads to open pores and allows bacteria to enter, causing infections and swelling in your occipital lymph nodes. 

Can Occipital Lymph Nodes Be Cancerous?

Occipital lymph nodes can be cancerous, but it is not very common. Distant metastasis, such as lung or thyroid cancer, can develop cancerous occipital lymph nodes. In addition, scalp lipoma, melanoma of the cervical and head, malignancies of the skin, and external auditory canal can lead to metastasis in occipital lymph nodes. 

Patients with head and cervical tumors usually suffer from regional lymphadenopathy, while disseminated carcinomatosis results in generalized lymphadenopathy. Lymphoma can cause both generalized and regional lymphadenopathy. 

How Long Does It Take for Occipital Lymph Nodes to Go Down?

The occipital lymph nodes can disappear in two to three weeks until the infection is gone. Swollen glands result when your body fights off infection. However, if the lymph node seems to keep growing in size, becomes hard and immovable, and has asymmetrical thickening, then you should consult your doctor, as it may be a sign of cancer. 

MOCEAN- Perfect Spot to Correct Your Lymphatic Flow

If you want to correct your lymphatic flow by effective lymphatic drainage therapy, then choose Mocean!

At MOCEAN Wellness Centre in NYC, our professionals perform holistic assessments and provide manual lymphatic drainage, which promotes lymphatic flow through manual massage; dry brushing, which stimulates sweat glands and enhances the flow of lymphatic fluid; and compression therapy, which promotes relaxation and eases swelling. 

The Bottom Line

Occipital lymph nodes are at the back of your head and drain lymph from cervical and nearby regions. You can get swollen occipital lymph nodes or occipital lymphadenopathy due to many reasons, such as infections, inflammation, diseases, autoimmune disorders, or it may be idiopathic. Occipital lymph nodes rarely become cancerous, but it is not uncommon for them to become metastasized due to distant metastasis. However, you can correct your lymphatic drainage and reduce swelling in a number of ways. 

So, book your appointment at MOCEAN Longevity Centre in NYC right now to get rid of swelling and improve your lymphatic flow!

Then we create a health plan tailored to your needs.

Based on the results, we develop a personalized treatment plan for each individual to promote optimal health. With 1-on-1 consultations, cutting-edge technology, and a team of experts who care about getting you better, MOCEAN offers you a comprehensive road map on how to become the healthiest version of yourself.