Sclerosing Mesenteritis: Causes & Treatment

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Sclerosing mesenteritis is a rare but painful disorder. In this lesson, you're going to learn what it is in simple terms as well as what its causes and treatments might be.

The Mesentery

If you could open up your abdomen right now (don't--it's painful), you'd clearly see your intestines looping around in there. What you'd also notice is that there is a membrane, now considered a separate organ by some, which attaches to parts of your intestinal tract in a fan-like manner. Among many other functions, it also attaches the intestines to the abdominal wall and stores fat. This membranous organ is known as the mesentery.

But this lesson isn't about the mesentery. Instead, it's about a very specific condition involving the mesentery, known as sclerosing mesenteritis. Let's define it and look at its causes and treatments.

What is Sclerosing Mesenteritis?

Sclerosing mesenteritis is one mouthful of a term. Before we explore the condition in more detail, let's break down its words first because this will help us understand the condition itself.

Sclerosing comes to us from the Greek for 'hard', 'skleros'. In other words, sclerosing refers to the hardening of something. Mesenteritis, as you can probably guess, refers to the mesentery. The '-itis' in mesenteritis is a suffix that denotes the inflammation of something. So, the mesentery is inflamed and consequently hardened in this condition.

But it's not as simple as that. Sclerosing mesenteritis is sometimes used as an umbrella term for a continuum of overlapping disorders, which in the end lead to the sclerosing mesenteritis itself. Although, be aware that some people believe the following three conditions are separate disorders.

It is believed that everything begins with mesenteric lipodystrophy, which is where the mesenteric fat breaks down in an inappropriate manner. This then leads to mesenteric panniculitis, the inflammation of the mesenteric fat. And everything ends in sclerosing mesenteritis, which leads to scar tissue formation and the thickening and hardening of the mesentery.

All of this causes problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, fever, weight loss, and more.

Causes & Treatment

So what actually causes this cascade of problems? The short answer is that no one knows for sure. Some possible reasons for it include:

  • Cancer
  • Abdominal surgery
  • Trauma to the abdominal region
  • An autoimmune disorder. This is a disorder where the body's immune system attacks the self ('auto-').
  • Infection, like typhoid fever or malaria

The treatment for sclerosing mesenteritis is mainly supportive in nature and is aimed at addressing the problem(s) that might stem from it. For example, if a person's bowel is blocked due to the condition, they'll need surgery to take care of the blockage.

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