Enlarged Spleen

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:

  • Inability to eat a large meal
  • Pain on the upper left side of the abdomen
  • Hiccups

In nearly 5% of individuals with enlarged spleens, no underlying cause can be determined.

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.

 


Signs, symptoms & indicators of Enlarged Spleen

Symptoms - Cardiovascular  

(Possibly) enlarged spleen



Counter Indicators
Symptoms - Cardiovascular  

Absence of enlarged spleen



Symptoms - Gas-Int - General  

Hiccups




Conditions that suggest Enlarged Spleen

Circulation  



Risk factors for Enlarged Spleen

Autoimmune  


Circulation  

Thalassemia

The spleen is an organ that helps your body fight infection and remove unwanted material. When a person has a thalassemia, the spleen has to work very hard. As a result, the spleen becomes larger than normal. This makes anemia worse. If the spleen becomes too large, it must be removed.



 


Hormones  


Infections  


 


 


 


Metabolic  


Organ Health  

Cirrhosis of the Liver

Normally, blood from the intestines and spleen is carried to the liver through the portal vein. But cirrhosis slows the normal flow of blood, which increases the pressure in the portal vein. This condition is called portal hypertension. When portal hypertension occurs, the spleen frequently enlarges and holds white blood cells and platelets, reducing the numbers of these cells in the blood. A low platelet count may be the first evidence that a person has developed cirrhosis.



Risks  


 


Tumors, Malignant  


 


 


 


 



Enlarged Spleen suggests the following may be present

Hormones  



Recommendations for Enlarged Spleen

Surgery/Invasive  

Surgery

When an enlarged spleen causes serious complications or the underlying problem can not be identified or treated, surgical removal (splenectomy) may be an option. In chronic or critical cases, surgery may offer the best hope for recovery.

However, elective spleen removal requires careful consideration. While you can live an active life without a spleen, you are more likely to contract serious or even life-threatening infections, including an overwhelming post-splenectomy infection. Another treatment to consider is radiation. This can sometimes shrink the spleen so that surgery will not be needed.



Key

Weak or unproven link
Strong or generally accepted link
Proven definite or direct link
Very strongly or absolutely counter-indicative
May do some good

Glossary

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.

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.

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.

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.

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