Thick neck – causes, treatment & help

Under a thick respectively. swollen throat Doctors understand swelling in the neck area. This can be visually visible and / or palpable and can have very different causes, which may also be of a more serious nature.

Table of Contents

What is a thick neck?

A thick neck (swelling of the throat), as the name suggests, denotes one or more swellings in the neck area. This can be a rather superficial and therefore harmless swelling that does not hinder swallowing or speaking.

Likewise, the swellings can also extend into the inner area of ​​the neck and thus cause problems when swallowing or, in the worst case, also when breathing.

Since several different organs are located in the neck area, some of them have vital functions fulfill, the cause of a thick neck should be clarified by a doctor in order to rule out later health problems or even a life-threatening condition of the patient.


A thick neck can have very different causes. Among other things, this includes a disease of the thyroid gland, which under certain circumstances can cause a clearly visible swelling (the so-called goiter).

Swollen lymph nodes are also partially clearly visible. They can indicate inflammation in the body. A flu or a strong cold are often the reason for a thick neck, which also includes difficulty swallowing.

Mumps or scarlet fever not only cause a swollen neck in children. Not least can also a tumor in the neck area may be responsible for swelling. The treating doctor can clarify the exact causes within the scope of a comprehensive examination.

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Diseases with this symptom

diagnosis & course

In the case of a thick neck, there is first a detailed discussion with the patient before the actual examination. The attending doctor can then feel the swelling and, for example, carry out a blood test to determine possible changes in the blood count determine.

If necessary, a tissue sample from the lymph nodes can also be taken or a computed tomography can be performed. Appropriate therapy can then be initiated based on the diagnosis made.

The course depends on the type of disease and cannot be given as a blanket. While a flu infection is usually over after a few days, intensive therapy must be initiated in the case of cancer, for example.


Complications from a "thick neck" are closely related to the causes. For example, an abscess that connects to a blood vessel in the throat can cause a risk of blood poisoning or a brain abscess with a life-threatening course. If there is a retropharyngeal abscess, i.e. behind the pharynx, reaching over to a cervical vertebra must be considered as a possible complication. There is also a risk that the abscess will sink into the chest area. A life-threatening course cannot be ruled out in this regard either.

The Bezold abscess can spread to the bone ([[mastoiditis). Another spreading complication should be avoided.

The peritonsillar abscess caused by bacterial tonsillitis can develop into a parapharyngeal abscess in the throat if the treatment is improper or too late. Until then, the course of complications such as:

  • unilateral swallowing difficulties
  • Fever combined with general weakness
  • earache
  • Difficulty opening your mouth

The retropharyngeal abscess can contribute to the purulent melting of the lymph nodes involved after an injury or bacterial inflammation.

Another serious complication that can result from tonsillitis (tonsillitis) as the cause of a thick neck is rheumatic fever. This is characterized by painful inflammation of various joints as well as the heart valves and heart muscle. Extremely rarely, kidney inflammation occurs in connection with tonsillitis.

The goiter as another cause of a thick neck can lead to functional autonomy. In rare cases this leads to the development of a malignant tumor (thyroid cancer) as a further complication..

When to go to the doctor?

Under a "thick neck" is to be understood in the medical sense of a swollen neck. If it is not visible, it is at least palpable. There are many different causes for a thick neck, including harmless and serious nature. With superficial swelling, those affected rarely have symptoms. Internal swelling of the neck, on the other hand, can affect swallowing and even breathing. If you have a thick neck, you should immediately consult a doctor for safety.

The thick neck in the form of a goiter is known, triggered by a malfunction of the thyroid gland. Swollen lymph nodes are also often responsible for a thick neck, often as a symptom of a severe cold, flu or tonsillitis. In addition to various other diseases, a thick neck can also be considered a tumor in the neck area. It may be necessary to take a tissue sample.

The family doctor can already serve his patient well in the diagnosis. When taking the patient’s medical history, he asks about other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, earache, fever and weakness. In addition, the family doctor can refer his patient to a specialist, for example an internist, cardiologist, endocrinologist, ear, nose and throat doctor, rheumatologist, nephrologist or oncologist and, if necessary, a pediatrician.


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Christina Cherry
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