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Enlarged spleen

Spleen, the single largest mass of lymphoid tissue in your body, is located under the rib cage in the upper left quadrant of your abdomen. One of the spleen problems is the spleen enlargement. An enlarged spleen isn’t a disease itself but occurs as a result of an underlying condition. There are various conditions that make your spleen enlarge. Enlarged spleen, also known as splenomegaly, is an increase in the size of the spleen beyond the normal size.

Your spleen is a part of the immune system and is considered to be as a dual-purpose organ. It filters your blood by removing defective blood cells from the bloodstream. It produces the white blood cells and antibodies that fight against the diseases. Your spleen is vulnerable to a wide range of conditions as it is involved in many of your bodily functions.

Symptoms

In some cases, an enlarged spleen may not cause any symptoms. But, the underlying conditions that lead to splenomegaly will cause the splenomegaly symptoms.

  • Pain that radiates to left shoulder (may indicate spleen pain)
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Fatigue
  • Easy bleeding
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Paleness
  • Night sweats

Complications

If the enlarged spleen is left untreated, then it may lead to severe complications which include the following:

  • Infections:Due to enlargement of the spleen, the number of healthy blood cells is reduced making you more prone to infections.
  • Ruptured spleen:Your spleen is so soft that it can be damaged even with minor injuries. The risk of rupture is increased if you have an enlarged spleen. The ruptured spleen causes severe bleeding and can be fatal.

When to seek medical advice?

If you have pain in your upper abdomen, then it is wise to look for the medical care. When the pain is severe and worsens while you’re taking deep breathe, visit your doctor as soon as possible.

Self-management and prevention

If your spleen is enlarged, then you must completely avoid contact sports such as football, hockey, and soccer. Wearing a seat belt would benefit you. It prevents the damage to your spleen if you’re in a car accident.

As surgical removal of your spleen makes you vulnerable to many infections, you need to be vaccinated against the infections caused by the Streptococcus pneumoniae, Haemophilus influenzae, and Neisseria meningitidis. Additionally, you must receive influenza vaccine every year.

Your doctor chooses a specific strategy for splenomegaly treatment based on the underlying condition that is responsible for your spleen to be enlarged. At times, if you’re diagnosed with enlarged spleen causing no symptoms, then ‘wait and watch’ approach would be beneficial. You have to visit your doctor for reevaluation for every six months or immediately after experiencing symptoms.

Splenectomy:The splenectomy is the surgical removal of your spleen. However, the removal spleen may not affect your body functions.

Sometimes, radiation therapy would be an effective approach and best alternative to surgery. Radiation therapy causes your spleen to shrink and reduce the symptoms.

Usually, your doctor will identify the enlargement of the liver during the physical examination that is by palpating your abdomen. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may order any of the following tests.

Blood tests :The blood tests involve a complete blood count that helps to determine the number of red blood cells, platelets, and white blood cells. Computed tomography (CT) scan or ultrasound :CT scan and ultrasound helps to determine the size of your spleen. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) :MRI helps to check the blood flow through the spleen.

Several diseases and infections result in the enlargement of the spleen. Generally, the spleen becomes enlarged if it works excessively. So, any disease condition that damages your blood cells requires the blood to be filtered and the abnormal blood cells to be removed, this leads in the enlargement of the spleen.

The causes of splenomegaly are the below conditions:

  • Viral infections such as cytomegalovirus and mononucleosis
  • Bacterial infections such as syphilis or endocarditis
  • Parasitic infections such as malaria
  • Cirrhosis and other liver disorders
  • Hemolytic anemia
  • Blood cancers
  • Metabolic disorders such as Gaucher's disease
  • Trauma