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What Causes Mesenteric Lymphadenitis?

The swelling of the lymph nodes in the mesentery, i.e. the tissue that attaches the abdominal walls and bowel, isn’t a rare occurrence. This is the case, especially in individuals suffering from intestinal infections, which happens to be the common cause of mesenteric lymphadenitis. There are a number of other causes which lead to this condition and risk factors which increase one’s chances of developing the illnesses. Lymph nodes are located in various parts across the human body and they contain lymphocytes, which are white blood cells. They’re part of the body’s lymphatic system and help protect the human body by filtering out any pathogens or micro-organisms that might affect your overall well-being.

What Causes Mesenteric Lymphadenitis?

Mesenteric lymphadenitis is characterized by the inflammation of the lymph nodes located in the mesentery. This could be as a result of:

  • Gastroenteritis which is often referred to as stomach flu can cause mesenteric lymphadenitis.
  • Bacterial infections from bacteria such as Mycobacterium tuberculosis, Bartonella henselae which causes cat scratch disease, and Streptococcus viridans, to name a few.
  • Viral infections such as rubeola virus, coxsackieviruses, and adenovirus serotypes.
  • Parasites in the intestines, for example, the Giardia lamblia.

Other illnesses that can lead to mesenteric lymphadenitis include; human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). When the lymph nodes are at work, they will trap any germs, bacteria or viruses that are present in the lymphatic system. As they filter these foreign pathogens, the lymph nodes can become inflamed and swell. Inflammation of lymph nodes can also be attributed to the increased number of white blood cells produced during an infection. The symptoms of swollen lymph nodes are pain, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting as well as diarrhea and fever.

  • Anyone can develop mesenteric lymphadenitis; however, it is most common in children. An individual is likely to develop the condition if they have recently experienced;
  • A stomach virus
  • Any respiratory infection including a cold virus
  • Consuming pork or unpasteurized milk that is contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica

When To See A Doctor for Mesenteric Lymphadenitis?

If your child is complaining of stomach aches that are painful and won’t go away, you should take him/her for a doctor’s appointment. In addition to that, if you exhibit any of the following symptoms, you should take them to a doctor for further testing and proper diagnosis. They include;

Preventive Measures For Mesenteric Lymphadenitis

Protecting yourself against developing mesenteric lymphadenitis isn’t easy at all. However, since we already know what may cause the condition, we can try to curb the issue from the root. In cases where the causative factor is either bacterial or viral infection, one can reduce the risk of developing the disease by;

  • Washing your hands with soap and water regularly.
  • Avoiding contact with individuals suffering from bacterial or viral infections.
  • Disinfecting areas where you store your food as well as in the kitchen where food is prepared.
  • Observe general hygiene.


The etiology behind mesenteric lymphadenitis is associated with intestinal infections that one may develop due to bacteria or viruses. As the lymph nodes trap any microbes present in the body, so as to kill them, the lymph nodes may react negatively causing them to swell up. The swelling is accompanied by pain, which is most prominent in the lower, right side of the abdomen. However, some individuals may experience pain in a larger part of the abdomen, making it easy to misdiagnose the condition. So, it is important that when you visit a doctor, you are aware of, let’s say when your child started experiencing abdominal pains and where it is exactly located. Other than that, you should inform your doctor of any conditions (risk factors) your child may have been suffering from, that could lead to the illness.


Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 28, 2023

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