Doctors usually prescribe oral or intravenous antibiotics for bacterial infections of the lymph system; however, effective treatment depends on the organism responsible for the infection, according to Merck Manuals Consumer Edition. Viruses, protozoa and fungi can also migrate from an infection in the skin, eyes, nose or other areas of the body. Infectious mononucleosis, tuberculosis, streptococcal infection and syphilis can also cause lymph node infections. Infections may affect a few localized nodes or most of the lymphatic system.
Bacterial infections of the lymphatic system can spread within hours, warns MedlinePlus. It recommends patients who with symptoms of a lymphatic infection call their doctor or go to an emergency room immediately. With antibiotic treatment, most patients experience a complete recovery, although the swelling can last several weeks or months. Some patients experience complications, such as the formation of abscesses, fistulas, cellulitis or sepsis.
When the infection is viral, antibiotics are not useful, but the swelling of the nodes usually returns to normal after the virus resolves. Cancer, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis cause swollen lymph nodes without an infection. With these conditions, the most-effective treatment for the lymph node problem is treating the underlying condition. For swelling due to cancer, the patient might require chemotherapy, radiation treatment or surgery, according to Mayo Clinic.