Vascular Neck Pain–A Common Syndrome Seldom Recognized

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A YOUNG or middle-aged women reported to her physician because of a sore throat, without fever or other constitutional manifestations, which may have been present for weeks or months. The patient believes that the glands in the neck are swollen. These “swollen glands” are said to act strangely: sometimes the swelling lasts only a few hours, sometimes it persists for weeks; it disappears mysteriously and recurs frequently. During the course of the physical examination the physician finds no abnormality, but when he re-examines the neck and follows the directions given by the patient, he finds a tender swelling that could be an inflamed lymph node.

The patient then is treated with a sulfonamide or with penicillin, and, when no relief ensues, a course of one of the broad-spectrum antibiotics is administered. This therapeutic program also is unsuccessful, and the harried physician begins to think of other possibilities. Since the patient has “swollen glands,” feels weak, tired, and run-down, and antimicrobial therapy has not helped, a diagnosis of infectious mononucleosis may be considered. But, results of a heterophil antibody test are negative, and the diagnosis is changed to possible viral infection.

After several weeks or months of having diagnoses changed, the nervous patient can sense that her physician is uncertain, and she begins to worry about the looming possibility of cancer. She keeps poking in the region of the soreness, and the area becomes even more tender. In desperation, further investigations are carried out and nothing definitely abnormal is found. Teeth . . .



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