Preauricular lymph nodes: What to know


The preauricular lymph nodes sit just in front of the ears. These tiny nodes play a vital role in the immune system.

What are the preauricular lymph nodes?

The PLNs are a group of lymph nodes that sit just in front of the ears. These lymph nodes filter lymph fluid as it arrives from the scalp, neck, and various parts of the face.

The human body contains about 600 small glands called lymph nodes that play an essential role in the function of the immune system.

A network of vessels called the lymphatic system connects the lymph nodes.

Lymph vessels take excess fluid from the body’s tissues and direct it toward nearby lymph nodes. The lymph nodes contain immune cells that detect and destroy bacteria, viruses, and damaged cells in the fluid.

At the end of this filtering process, the lymph nodes release the clean fluid back into the blood.

Causes of swelling

Most healthy lymph nodes are so small that a person is unable to feel them.

Sometimes, a lymph node or multiple lymph nodes may swell as they work hard to remove harmful substances from the lymph fluid. The swelling usually signals a problem somewhere in the body.

Doctors use the term localized lymphadenopathy to refer to swelling in a single lymph node or a small cluster of lymph nodes, such as the PLNs.

Localized lymphadenopathy happens when there is a problem in nearby tissues. The issue may be:

  • an infection
  • injuries
  • cancer

Generalized lymphadenopathy is swelling in multiple lymph nodes throughout the body. Certain infections, diseases, and medications can cause this type of swelling.

The following are potential causes of swelling in the PLNs:

Salivary gland infections

The parotid glands are a type of large salivary gland, and they sit over the upper jaw, one in front of each ear. Infections of the parotid glands can cause swelling of the PLNs.

Other possible symptoms of a salivary gland infection include:

  • dry mouth
  • an abnormal or foul taste
  • swelling in front of the ears, below the jaw, or on the floor of the mouth
  • a squeezing pain in the mouth or face, especially when eating
  • difficulty opening the mouth
  • redness on the side of the face or upper neck
  • a fever

Salivary gland infections are usually bacterial. Risk factors for these types of infection include:

  • poor oral hygiene
  • blockages with salivary duct stones
  • dehydration
  • chronic illness
  • smoking


Most causes of swollen PLNs are due to viral or bacterial infections. However, in very rare cases, a painless swelling in any of the lymph nodes could be a sign of lymphoma.

Lymphoma is cancer that originates in the cells of the lymphatic system. The most common types are Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lymphoma may occur in any lymph node, but it usually affects those in the following areas:

  • neck
  • armpit
  • groin
  • abdomen


Media Contact:
John Mathews
Journal Manager
Journal of Phlebology and Lymphology