Mesenteric lymphadenitis is a condition that chiefly causes inflammation and swelling in the membrane of the lymph nodes that connects your bowel to the abdominal wall. Lymph nodes are small, bean-shaped organs that mainly contain white blood cells called lymphocytes. They are the quintessential part of the body’s lymphatic system and play a key role in enhancing the immunity. The main purpose of lymph nodes is to filter out bacteria and other germs from the lymph fluid so that the body can remove these harmful substances.
Since it mainly occurs due to a viral infection, it is also known as mesenteric adenitis and mainly occurs in children and teenagers.
The preliminary symptoms of this painful condition often mimic with appendicitis (inflammation of the appendix) or intussusception (a condition where a part of the intestine slide back into another part of the intestine). But unlike both appendicitis or intussusception, mesenteric lymphadenitis is seldom serious and usually get cleared up on its own.
The main cause of this inflammatory condition can be due to gastroenteritis or stomach flu or any other infection that leads to inflammation and swollen lymph nodes in and around the abdominal wall. Since the lymph nodes help in filtering any external germ or microbe like a virus, bacteria or other worms, to prevent you from falling sick, during the process the lymph nodes get swollen and inflamed leading to Mesenteric lymphadenitis.
Examples of some external microbes that cause Mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
Parasite: Giardia lamblia
Bacteria: Escherichia coli, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Staphylococcus species, Streptococcus viridans, Yersinia enterocolitica, Bartonella henselae, Beta-hemolytic streptococci
Virus: Adenoviruses, acute HIV infection, Epstein-Barr virus, Co Sackie viruses, Rubeola virus (measles)
In some very rare cases, inflamed mesenteric lymph nodes can result from cancer, including:
- Lung cancer
- Pancreatic cancer
- Gastrointestinal cancer
- Breast cancer
Certain causative factors that increase the risk of Mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
Stomach Flu: An infection due to a stomach virus increases the risk of getting mesenteric lymphadenitis as well.
Respiratory infection: An infection of the upper respiratory tract due to the common cold virus can also aggravate the chances of mesenteric lymphadenitis.
Undercooked Food: Eating undercooked pork contaminated with Y. enterocolitica can make a person prone to mesenteric lymphadenitis.
The common signs and symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis include:
- Abdominal pain (often limited to the lower right side of the abdomen or other parts of the stomach)
- General abdominal tenderness
- Lymph node enlargement
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight loss
- Malaise (general sick feeling)
Diagnosis And Treatment
On noticing the above-mentioned signs and symptoms, do consult a doctor at the earliest to prevent any discomfort. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up, acknowledges the child’s medical history and conducts the following diagnostics:
Blood Test: To confirm whether the child has any infection or the specific type of stomach bug that causes the inflammation.
Imaging Techniques: A Ct-scan or Ultrasound is done to visualize the interior of the abdomen.
In mild or uncomplicated cases, the inflammation caused due to the viral infection usually subsides on its own within 3-4 weeks. But in case the child is also diagnosed with fever, body pain or other symptoms, the doctor may prescribe for over-the-counter fever and pain medications. In the case of mesenteric lymphadenitis caused due to a bacterial infection, the doctor may prescribe for an antibiotic therapy.
A mild form of the infection can be treated right at home with some lifestyle medications such as:
- Get plenty of rest
- Drink adequate amount of fluids to prevent dehydration from fever, vomiting and diarrhea.
- Apply moist heat on the abdomen using a warm, moist washcloth to help ease discomfort.