The spleen is a tiny organ that is positioned underneath the rib cage on the left side of the body. This organ is normally approximately the size of a fist, but because of a numerous conditions – from liver disease to infections as well as some cancers – may cause the spleen to enlarge. An enlarged spleen is also referred to as “splenomegaly”.
Enlarged Spleen Symptoms
A spleen which is enlarged may cause:
- In specific cases there are no symptoms
- Fullness or pain in the upper abdomen on the left side that may migrate to the shoulder on the left side.
- A feeling of being full when no food has been eaten or after consuming only a little amount – can occur when an enlarged spleen presses up against the stomach.
- Easy bleeding
- Frequent infections
An individual should see their primary care physician immediately if there is any pain in the upper abdomen on the left side, specifically when the pain is severe or if the pain gets worse upon taking a deep breath.
Enlarged Spleen Causes
There are numerous diseases and infections which often causes a spleen to enlarge. This effect on the spleen may in some cases only be transitory – dependent on how good the treatment works. These factors can include:
- Viral infection, for example mononucleosis
- Parasitic infections, for instance malaria
- Bacterial infection such as endocarditis (infection of heart inner lining) or syphilis
- Cirrhosis as well as other diseases which affects the liver
- Blood cancers, for instance leukemia, as well as lymphomas such as Hodgkin’s disease
- Diverse kinds of anemia which are hemolytic – a condition categorized by untimely damage of red blood cells.
- Pressure on the veins of the liver or spleen or a blood clot in these veins
- Metabolic disorders, such as Niemann-Pick disease and Gaucher’s disease
The spleen is located underneath the rib cage, right next to the stomach on the abdominal left side. It is a spongy, soft organ which performs several jobs that are critical and can be with no trouble damaged easy. Amid other problem, the spleen:
- Plays a major role in stopping infections by creating white blood cells known as lymphocytes and acts as the first line protection against attacking pathogens.
- Destroys old and damaged blood cells and filters them out
- Stocks red blood cells as well as platelets which are the cells assisting blood clotting. Act as an in-between point for the immune system as well as the brain, leading medical researchers to believe some day they may be able to activate the spleen’s abilities to fight infection by manipulation of the nervous system
A spleen that is enlarged upsets each of the above essential functions. For example, as the spleen gets larger, it starts to filter out red blood cells that are normal as well as atypical ones, which reduces the amount of cells that are healthy in the bloodstream. It can also trap numerous platelets. Sooner or later, additional red blood cells as well as platelets clog the spleen, intruding with normal operation. A spleen which is enlarged can even get too large for its very own blood source and this can destroy and damage segments of the organ.
Enlarged Spleen Diagnosis
A spleen that is enlarged is normally noticed during a regular exam. The physician will often be able to touch the increase in size by examining gently the upper left abdomen, just beneath the rib cage. But, in some individuals – particularly anyone slender – a normal-sized, healthy spleen can often be manipulated during the exam.
The physician will need to ratify the diagnosis of a spleen enlargement with at least one or more of these tests:
- Blood workup such as a comprehensive blood count in order to check the amount of white blood cells, red cells as well as platelets in the system
- Magnetic resonance imaging – MRI – to trace blood flowing thru the spleen
- Ultrasound or computerized tomography – CT – scan that helps defines the size of the spleen and any organs that it may be crowding.
Often further testing may need to be done to identify the cause of an enlarged spleen; including liver functioning tests as well as a bone marrow test which will give more information about the blood cells than blood drawn from a vein.
There are cases when a section of solid bone marrow is removed in a bone marrow biopsy. There is also a technique known as bone marrow aspiration where liquid portion of the marrow is removed. In many cases, both procedures are done at the same time.
Both the solid as well as the liquid bone marrow samples are normally taken from the same place on the back of one of the hipbones. A needle is inserted into the bone thru an incision. These tests are uncomfortable so the individual will be given either a general or local anesthesia prior to the test.
Due to the bleeding risk, a biopsy needle of the spleen is almost never done.
Sporadically, when there is no reason for a spleen being enlarged even after a thorough study for a cause, the physician may endorse surgery to get rid of the spleen. After removal surgically, the spleen is inspected under the microscope in order to look for the possibility of a spleen lymphoma.
Enlarged Spleen Treatment
When a spleen is enlarged and causes difficulties that are serious or if the primary problem cannot be recognized or treated then surgical removal of the spleen – a splenectomy –can be an alternative. Actually in critical or cases that are chronic, surgery can be the best option for recovery.
But electing for spleen removal necessitates very careful consideration. An individual can live an energetic life minus a spleen but are more probable to contract serious or life-threatening contagions which can include devastating post-splenectomy infections that can happen soon after this operation. Often, radiation can shrink the spleen in order for surgery to be avoided.
If an individual does have a spleen removed, the following steps may help reduce the danger of infection. They include:
- Taking penicillin or other antibiotics after the surgery and anytime that an individual and their physician suspect the possibility of an infection
- Taking a series of vaccinations both prior to and immediately after the splenectomy. These consist of the pneumococcal or Pneumovax, meningococcal and haemophilus influenza type b vaccines that defend against pneumonia, meningitis as well as any infections of the blood, joints and bones.
- Evade traveling to other areas of the world where infections for example malaria are endemic.