What Is Mesenteric Adenitis?

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Mesenteric adenitis, also known as mesenteric lymphadenitis, is a secondary syndrome caused by inflammation of the lymph nodes found in a membrane fold that joins the intestines to the abdominal wall, known as the mesentery. The main symptom of mesenteric adenitis is pain in the lower right side of the abdomen.

This article discusses the symptoms, causes, and treatment options for mesenteric adenitis.

Close up of a woman with abdominal pain

Types of Mesenteric Adenitis

There are two types of mesenteric adenitis: primary and secondary. Primary mesenteric adenitis develops without inflammatory processes in the abdomen, whereas secondary is directly associated with inflammation of the mesentery.

Who Is Most Likely to Develop Mesenteric Adenitis?

Children, adolescents, and young adults are most affected by mesenteric adenitis.

What Are the Symptoms of Mesenteric Adenitis?

Mesenteric lymph nodes are located within the abdomen and are part of the lymphatic system. They produce white blood cells, lymphocytes, that help the immune system fight infection and disease. Lymph nodes also aid immunity by filtering out harmful pathogens, such as bacteria, from the body. 

When these lymph nodes become inflamed, mesenteric adenitis and its symptoms can develop, which include:

  • Fever
  • Severe pain and tenderness in the lower right side of the abdomen
  • Pain that is constant and sharp
  • Tenderness in the upper part of the abdomen below the rib cage
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Diarrhea or constipation

Some of these symptoms can present similarly to appendicitis, but the two are different conditions.

Mesenteric Adenitis vs. Appendicitis

While the main symptom of both mesenteric adenitis and appendicitis is similar and both conditions are caused by inflammation, the location of the inflammation is different. Appendicitis occurs when the appendix becomes inflamed, whereas mesenteric adenitis is inflammation of the lymph nodes.

What Causes Mesenteric Adenitis?

Primary mesenteric adenitis is idiopathic, meaning it develops for no known reason. When there are no abnormalities or heightened levels of inflammation in the abdomen causing the symptoms of mesenteric adenitis, it is considered primary.

Secondary, on the other hand, can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

These infections cause the lymph nodes to swell when the body tries to filter them out of its system.

Celiac Disease and Mesenteric Adenitis

It had been commonly thought that a connection existed between celiac disease and mesenteric adenitis. However, recent research has found that to be a myth, and the two disorders are not related at all.

How Is Mesenteric Adenitis Diagnosed?

It often is difficult for healthcare providers to diagnose mesenteric adenitis because it presents similarly to appendicitis. Because of that, the diagnostic process starts by ruling out other, more dangerous health conditions.

When proper diagnostics rule out appendicitis, healthcare providers will conduct an ultrasound of the abdomen to determine if the mesenteric lymph nodes are inflamed. Typically, if the mesenteric lymph nodes are 8 millimeters in diameter or larger, you will be diagnosed with mesenteric adenitis.

Other tests used to confirm a diagnosis include:

Health History and Diagnosis

Healthcare providers will want to know the health history and any symptoms you or your child is experiencing. However, since the symptoms can be associated with many conditions, gathering this data is only a first step in the diagnostic process to help rule out more severe disorders or diseases.

How Is Mesenteric Adenitis Treated?

Once healthcare providers have diagnosed mesenteric adenitis properly, they will create a treatment plan. Managing symptoms and treating the underlying cause is the mainstay therapy for the syndrome.

To treat the pain, healthcare providers will prescribe Tylenol (acetaminophen) pain medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), such as Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen), may also be used in combination with acetaminophen to reduce inflammation while managing pain.

Other methods of managing the condition include:

  • Keeping hydrated
  • Antibiotics for those with bacterial infections that led to mesenteric adenitis
  • Using over-the-counter (OTC) fever and pain medications, such as Tylenol or Motrin and Advil

How Long Does It Take To Recover From Mesenteric Adenitis?

While some research has found that the inflammation and pain can resolve in as little as two to three weeks, it is more likely that a full recovery will take up to four weeks. Sometimes, a person can experience symptoms for up to 10 weeks.  

How to Cope With Mesenteric Adenitis

Coping with the pain associated with mesenteric adenitis can be challenging but not impossible. To cope with the symptoms while the syndrome heals, do the following:

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink lots of fluids, especially if vomiting and diarrhea have occurred.
  • Use a warm water bottle or electric heating pad on painful areas.
  • Take any pain medications, either prescribed or OTC, as directed.
  • Take any antibiotics as prescribed to help rid the body of the infection that caused mesenteric adenitis.

Rare Complications to Watch Out For

While mesenteric adenitis is typically mild or moderate and poses no severe health threat, a rare complication of ischemic colitis can occur. Ischemic colitis develops when blood flow to the large intestines is blocked. Symptoms to watch out for include:

  • Worsening abdominal pain, cramping, or tenderness in the stomach
  • Blood in the stool or the passing of blood through the anus without stool
  • An increased urgency to pass stool
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Low fever


Mesenteric adenitis is a non-life-threatening syndrome caused by inflammation of the lymph nodes found in the abdomen. It typically affects children, adolescents, and young adults following an infection. The symptoms—mainly pain and tenderness in the lower right part of the abdomen—mimic appendicitis.

Mesenteric adenitis will go away over time as the infection that causes it clears up. In the meantime, you can use prescribed or OTC pain and fever medications to manage symptoms. Hydration and rest are also important while recovering from mesenteric adenitis.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Angelica Bottaro
Angelica Bottaro is a professional freelance writer with over 5 years of experience. She has been educated in both psychology and journalism, and her dual education has given her the research and writing skills needed to deliver sound and engaging content in the health space.