Mesenteric lymphadenitis is an inflammatory condition that affects the lymph nodes in the mesentery, which is the membrane that connects the bowel to the abdominal wall. It mainly affects children and teens.
This painful condition can mimic appendicitis or intussusception, a condition in which part of the intestine slides into another part of the intestine. Unlike appendicitis or intussusception, however, mesenteric lymphadenitis is rarely serious and usually clears up on its own.
The most common cause of mesenteric lymphadenitis is a viral infection. Infections that cause mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
- Gastroenteritis (stomach flu). This may result from viral infections, such as rotavirus or norovirus. It may also result from bacterial infections, such as salmonella, staphylococcus, or streptococcus.
- Yersinia enterocolitica. This is the most common cause of mesenteric lymphadenitis in children. It may resemble Crohn's disease or acute appendicitis.
Other infections that cause mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
- HIV/AIDS. Direct or indirect infections related to HIV, a virus that can lead to AIDS.
- Tuberculosis. Bacterial infection that usually attacks the lungs but can also attack other parts of the body.
- Acute terminal ileitis. Inflammation of the end of the small intestine, possibly caused by a bacterium or Crohn’s disease.
Inflammatory conditions commonly linked to mesenteric lymphadenitis are:
- Appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix)
- Inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
- Connective tissue diseases, such as lupus, sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis
- Diverticulitis (inflammation of the lining of the large intestine)
- Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
What are signs and symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis?
Mesenteric lymphadenitis often causes symptoms in the right lower abdomen, and is often mistaken for appendicitis. Common symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
- Tenderness or pain in the center or lower right side of the abdomen
- High fever
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Nausea and vomiting
- Raised white blood cell count
- General feeling of being ill
How is mesenteric lymphadenitis diagnosed?
Mesenteric lymphadenitis is usually diagnosed based on:
- Blood tests. Certain blood tests can help determine the presence of an infection as well as what type of infection it is.
- Imaging studies. An abdominal ultrasound is often used to diagnose mesenteric lymphadenitis. A computed tomography (CT) scan of the abdomen also might be used to rule out other causes.
How is mesenteric lymphadenitis treated?
Most people with mesenteric lymphadenitis get better without treatment in 1-4 weeks, and the condition doesn’t cause any lingering effects after recovery.
Your doctor may prescribe medications, including antibiotics, to treat the infections and over-the-counter pain medication to manage symptoms.
Symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis can also be managed with:
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