Overview

Lymphadenitis is a condition in which your lymph nodes become inflamed. When the condition affects the lymph nodes in the membrane that connects your bowel to the abdominal wall (mesentery), it's called mesenteric lymphadenitis (mez-un-TER-ik lim-fad-uh-NIE-tis).

A viral intestinal infection is the usual cause of mesenteric lymphadenitis, also known as mesenteric adenitis. It mainly affects children and teens.

This painful condition can mimic appendicitis or a condition in which part of the intestine slides into another part of the intestine (intussusception). Unlike appendicitis or intussusception, mesenteric lymphadenitis is seldom serious and usually clears up on its own.

Symptoms

Possible signs and symptoms of mesenteric lymphadenitis include:

  • Abdominal pain, often centered on the lower right side, but the pain can be more widespread
  • General abdominal tenderness
  • Fever
  • Mesenteric lymph node enlargement

Depending on what's causing the ailment, signs and symptoms might also include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea and vomiting

When to see a doctor

Abdominal pain is common in children and teens, and it can be hard to know when it requires medical attention.

Call your doctor right away if your child has episodes of:

  • Sudden, severe abdominal pain
  • Abdominal pain with fever
  • Abdominal pain with diarrhea or vomiting

In addition, call your doctor if your child has episodes of the following signs and symptoms that don't get better over a short time:

  • Abdominal pain with a change in bowel habits
  • Abdominal pain with loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain that interferes with sleep

Causes

The most common cause of mesenteric lymphadenitis is a viral infection, such as gastroenteritis — often called stomach flu. This infection causes inflammation in the lymph nodes in the thin tissue that attaches your intestine to the back of your abdominal wall (mesentery).

Other causes of mesenteric lymphadenitis include bacterial infection, inflammatory bowel disease and lymphoma.