A patient's attention may be drawn to lymphatic enlargement by the presence of pain. Sometimes pain-free glands are detected on inspection or by palpation, for example when taking a shower or a bath. Their finding may cause understandable but hopefully inappropriate concern.

Frequently the dominant symptoms are those of the underlying pathological process and lymphadenopathy is only discovered during physical examination. Where HIV infection is a possibility, the patient should be asked about possible drug abuse, sexual habits and other risk factors.

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