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The spleen is an organ that is a part of the lymph system. It filters the blood and maintains healthy red and white blood cells and platelets. The spleen may be affected by many conditions involving the blood or lymph system, and by infection, malignancies, liver disease, and parasites. It performs a wide variety of functions. The spleen may be enlarged without any symptoms being present. When present, symptoms of splenomegaly can include:
Most individuals with splenomegaly require treatment for the underlying disease. Medications for underlying infections and possible radiation therapy are used as appropriate. The spleen is surgically removed (splenectomy) when medically necessary, when it is markedly enlarged, and when other treatments are not effective. A splenectomy may also be done to assess the rate of disease progress, called staging, if it is cancerous.
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Anemia: A condition resulting from an unusually low number of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in the red blood cells. The most common type is iron-deficiency anemia in which the red blood cells are reduced in size and number, and hemoglobin levels are low. Clinical symptoms include shortness of breath, lethargy and heart palpitations.
Cirrhosis: A long-term disease in which the liver becomes covered with fiber-like tissue. This causes the liver tissue to break down and become filled with fat. All functions of the liver then decrease, including the production of glucose, processing drugs and alcohol, and vitamin absorption. Stomach and bowel function, and the making of hormones are also affected.
Hypertension: High blood pressure. Hypertension increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure because it adds to the workload of the heart, causing it to enlarge and, over time, to weaken; in addition, it may damage the walls of the arteries.
Lymph: A clear fluid that flows through lymph vessels and is collected from the tissues throughout the body. Its function is to nourish tissue cells and return waste matter to the bloodstream. The lymph system eventually connects with and adds to venous circulation.
Parasite: An organism living in or on another organism.
Thalassemia: The thalassemias are a diverse group of genetic blood diseases characterized by absent or decreased production of normal hemoglobin, resulting in a microcytic anemia of varying degree. The thalassemias have a distribution concomitant with areas where P. falciparum malaria is common.
White Blood Cell: (WBC): A blood cell that does not contain hemoglobin: a blood corpuscle responsible for maintaining the body's immune surveillance system against invasion by foreign substances such as viruses or bacteria. White cells become specifically programmed against foreign invaders and work to inactivate and rid the body of a foreign substance. Also known as a leukocyte.