Mesenteric lymphadenitis (also known as mesenteric adenitis) is inflammation (swelling) of the lymph nodes in the abdomen (belly). Lymph nodes are organs that are part of the body’s immune system. They filter harmful substances such as bacteria and viruses so that they don’t spread to other parts of the body. Normally, lymph nodes are small (about the size of a pea), but they can become enlarged and tender when they become inflamed.
Mesenteric lymphadenitis is common in children and teenagers. It usually does not occur in people over 20 years old.
Mesenteric lymphadenitis is usually caused by an infection by a virus or bacteria. Usually the main infection is in the intestinal tract, often causing symptoms of diarrhea. As the bacteria or viruses are filtered by the mesenteric lymph nodes, the lymph nodes become larger and tender, causing pain.
Symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
The doctor will perform a physical exam and obtain the child’s medical history to learn what other medical issues the child has had. The doctor may also order tests; for example, a blood test can confirm an infection and identify what type it is.
Because there are a large number of lymph nodes in the same area as the appendix (the right lower abdomen), symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis are similar to those of appendicitis (inflamed appendix). Your doctor may use imaging tests, such as an ultrasound or CT scan, to rule out appendicitis, which is a medical emergency.
Most people with mesenteric lymphadenitis get better without treatment in 1-4 weeks. The condition doesn’t cause any lasting effects after recovery.
The doctor may prescribe medications to manage symptoms, including antibiotics to treat an infection, and over-the-counter pain medication.
Other steps to manage the symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
Upper respiratory infections sometimes develop in people with mesenteric lymphadenitis. Doctors typically treat these infections with antibiotics.
You can reduce your risk of developing mesenteric lymphadenitis caused by infection by:
Most people with mesenteric lymphadenitis return to school and normal activities as soon as symptoms go away. Some people may need to rest more than usual until they have fully recovered.
Contact your doctor if your child has severe pain in the abdomen that comes on quickly.
If your child has mesenteric lymphadenitis, you may want to ask your doctor:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 09/18/2018