Enlarged Spleen: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

What is an Enlarged Spleen?

Splenomegaly is a condition that develops when the spleen becomes enlarged. It is commonly referred to as an enlarged spleen. The spleen is a bean-shaped structure located in the left topmost portion of the abdominal cavity beneath the diaphragm. It plays a key role in the immune system by storing white blood cells and aids in the manufacture of antibodies. The spleen is responsible for functions like reprocessing old red blood cells, recycling the iron in hemoglobin and filtering antibody-coated bacteria. Because of its involvement in many functions, the spleen is prone to many conditions.

cirrhosisanemia

An individual with an enlarged spleen may experience symptoms like feeling a dull pain on the left side of the abdomen, feeling full early after a meal and being anemic. There may be no symptoms in some cases.

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Enlarged Spleen Symptoms

There are no specific signs or symptoms associated with enlarged spleen, but some individuals may experience the following.

Fatigue

A person may have a feeling of fatigue or tiredness if the spleen starts to press on other organs. This is because it will affect the flow of oxygenated blood within the body. A decrease in healthy red blood cells can cause severe fatigue.

Nausea

nausea

Weight Loss

A person with an enlarged spleen may feel full after only eating a small amount of food. This means that there will be a low intake of essential nutrients that are necessary for maintaining healthy body weight.

Anemia

headacheshortness of breath

Infections

An enlarged spleen can lower the number of healthy disease-fighting blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in the blood circulating the body. This increases the likelihood of infections.

Pain in the Abdomen

The pain is felt mainly on the upper left side of the abdomen where the spleen is located. The pain may extend to the back or to the shoulder blade.

Indigestion

indigestion

Bleeding

Enlargement may cause the spleen to inappropriately deal with platelets, and this can lead to abnormal bleeding, bruising, red spots on the skin (“petechiae”), internal bleeding, rectal and vaginal bleeding.

Hypersplenism

This is the medical term for an overactive spleen. If the spleen is overactive, it gets rid of the blood cells too early and too quickly. It is a secondary process that can arise from splenomegaly. Some causes of hypersplenism include:

Malaria

Tuberculosis

Cirrhosis

Several connective tissue and inflammatory diseases

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Causes of Enlarged Spleen

Infections

tuberculosisMononucleosis

Chronic Liver Diseases

These include cirrhosis, a liver disease where scar tissue replaces the healthy live tissue. Cirrhosis caused by excessive consumption of alcohol as well as nonalcoholic cirrhosis can both causes an enlarged spleen. Hepatitis C is another liver disease that can cause an enlarged spleen. It causes inflammation of the liver.

Leukemia

Leukemia

Autoimmune Disease

lupusrheumatoid arthritis

Gaucher Disease

Gaucher is the result of a buildup of fatty substances in several body organs, especially the spleen and liver. This buildup causes the spleen to enlarge. This disease can be inherited. Symptoms include abdominal complaints as the abdomen becomes painfully distended as the spleen enlarges dramatically.

Enlarged Spleen Diagnosis

An enlarged spleen can be detected by a physical exam. The doctor can feel it by gently examining the left upper abdomen. Some tests that can help diagnose an enlarged spleen include:

Blood Tests

These tests are done to check the number of platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells in the blood flowing within the body. Examining blood cells under a microscope shows their shape and size, which may give clues to the causes of the enlarged spleen.

Ultrasound or Computerized Tomography (CT) Scans

These tests are needed to establish how large the spleen is and whether it is crowding other organs. An x-ray of the abdomen may also show the size of the spleen.

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Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

This test provides an image that shows the size of the spleen and also traces the flow of blood within the organ.

Enlarged Spleen Treatment

Watchful Waiting

This applies in cases where the spleen is enlarged but there are no symptoms and the cause can be located. The patient will be required to visit a doctor as soon as the symptoms appear.

Spleen Removal Surgery

This is referred to as a splenectomy. Surgery is used when the cause of an enlarged spleen cannot be determined or when there are serious complications. Removal of the spleen provides the best hope for recovery in critical or chronic cases. An individual can lead a normal life without the organ, but will more likely contract dangerous infections.

Ruptured Spleen

A ruptured spleen is a medical emergency that happens when the spleen develops a break on its surface. The spleen can rupture when there is a forceful blow to the abdomen. A ruptured spleen can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.

Several diseases can also cause a ruptured spleen. The spleen becomes swollen and its capsule-like covering becomes thick. The swollen spleen becomes fragile and prone to rupture should the abdomen get a direct hit. Some of these diseases include malaria, blood diseases, anemia and infectious mononucleosis. In rare cases, a ruptured spleen is a sign of infectious mononucleosis.

Symptoms of a Ruptured Spleen

Blurred vision

Confusion

Lightheadedness

Fainting

Enlarged Spleen Remedies and Supplements

Any support you can lend you lymphatic system may help to assist the body in dealing with an enlarged spleen and that which causes is.

Omega-3 Fish Oils

omega-3vitamin B12fish oil softgels

Turmeric

Turmeric

Healthy Diet

Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein and whole grain when you have an enlarged spleen provides the body with the nutrients it requires to fight diseases or underlying infections.

Any supplemental regimen should be discussed with a doctor before starting, especially if there are underlying conditions or existing medications.

The Bottom Line

A spleen is an organ that plays key roles in your body. Having an enlarged spleen could be a symptom of several other conditions. It is advisable that you seek medical care when you experience any symptom of splenomegaly so that the doctor can determine its cause. This will allow for diagnosis and a good treatment method for your condition. You can also check some of the supplements and remedies discussed in this article to help you tackle an enlarged spleen at home.

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