Mesenteric Adenitis: A Parent’s View

Reverend Francis RitchieMiscellany

Mesenteric Adenitis

In the last quarter of 2016 our 10 year old girl was diagnosed with mesenteric adenitis, otherwise known as mesenteric lymphadenitis. The symptoms were showing as ongoing stomach pain localised to one part of her abdomen, extremely low energy, and high temperatures.

A lot of tests and work were undertaken to come up with some form of diagnosis. Glandular fever was one of the thoughts early on, but that was ruled out after some tests. It was thought that the problem may have been the appendix as the pain was presenting in roughly the same place. While scans did show residue in her appendix, appendicitis was ruled out. Scans also showed that she had enlarged nodes around the same abdomen area. This led to the diagnosis of mesenteric adenitis.

It’s unknown exactly what triggered the enlarging of those nodes. Just prior to experiencing the mesenteric adenitis pain she did have a bout of vomiting. It’s most likely that the swollen lymph nodes in her abdomen were processing whatever had caused the vomiting.

Mesenteric adenitis is a problem with little knowledge surrounding it and it is difficult to diagnose. Possible causes and treatment are vague.

What we struggled with the most was the timeframe. We were initially told it would clear up within a couple of weeks. In many cases that may be true. Most of what we could find online backed that up. Much information gives the impression that mesenteric adenitis is a mild problem that will clear itself up quickly as the swollen nodes in the abdomen deal with whatever it is they need to clear.

That wasn’t our reality though. As our daughter struggled all we could do was offer pain killers in the form of Paracetamol and Ibuprofen, with a doctor prescribing small doses of Tramadol as the problem wore on. Often the pain-killers did little and as a couple we often argued about what to be using. Be patient and kind with yourselves and each other. The stress is understandable. The struggle lasted for months rather than weeks. With the pain, lack of energy, and high temperatures, the mesenteric adenitis had her out of school for most of the last term (10 weeks) of the school year. We could count the number of days she spent at school that term on one hand.

There were days where she would lie in bed not wanting the radio, television or even our company – her energy was that low.

All that time off school meant that we were juggling who was going to take the day off work, or work from home to look after her. She wanted to be at school but with the pain and lack of energy she simply couldn’t do it.

Towards the end of the problem the pain moved from being constant to coming in waves. We worked on a number of techniques to help her psychologically deal with the pain and start moving back into normal life. She would go days where she would struggle with the pain during the day and just ask for relief at night. We found a helpful website and video for this and worked a lot on distraction. Almost a month after we were shown the video my wife had a Facebook post where our daughter had gone one whole day without pain killers – it was worth celebrating. Then a few weeks later the pain was no longer there and she was back to normal. That said, a few months on and we still don’t feel like her immunity is back to full strength. Her body suffered because of the mesenteric adenitis.

Not long after the problem had faded away articles started coming out about the discovery of the mesentery as an organ in its own right. Hopefully that leads to more accurate information about mesenteric adenitis causes and possible treatment.

Because the information out there about mesenteric adenitis is still vague, I can’t offer any great advice for how to deal with it. If you’ve been told that it’s mild and would go away in a couple of weeks only to find that the journey has been much tougher and longer than that, know that you’re not alone. A long bout of mesenteric adenitis can be tough to deal with. I feel your pain. It will eventually go away, but in the meantime, stick at it.

Also, keep getting your child checked for changes and help to deal with the pain caused by the mesenteric adenitis. Your peace of mind and the well-being of your child are more important than whether or not your doctor gets slightly annoyed with being pestered.

If you have a child suffering with mesenteric adenitis, leave a comment below and I will pray for you. I don’t promise any miracle or magic cure (I’m not a televangelist), but it can be nice knowing that you’re not alone.

Update (May 2017): It has been a few months since I wrote this post about our daughter’s (and our) struggle with mesenteric adenitis. She has been well for most of the year but last week it flared up again and she was away from school for the week. The severity of the mesenteric adenitis this time was not as high as the months at the end of last year, but clearly it can flare up from time to time. It’s worth being aware of and emotionally ready for any recurrence.