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.