Splenomegaly commonly referred to as Spleen enlargement is a condition that occurs when your spleen becomes enlarged. The spleen is a part of your lymphatic system. It helps the immune system by storing white blood cells and helping in the creation of antibodies.
The spleen is extremely important in your body’s fight against infection as it is the source of two types of white blood cells: B cells and T cells.
Found on the left side of your body, below your rib cage spleen is responsible for:
- filtering antibody-coated bacteria
- reprocessing old red blood cells
- recycling iron in hemoglobin
An enlarged spleen may cause:
- No symptoms in some cases
- Too much pain or fullness in the left upper abdomen that may spread to the left shoulder
- Problem in eating due to enlarged spleen pressing on the stomach
- Frequent infections
- Easy Bleeding
See your doctor promptly if you have severe pain in the upper abdomen area on the left side.
Who is at risk?
Though anyone can develop Splenomegaly at any age, certain groups are at higher risk, including:
- Children and young adults with infections, such as mononucleosis.
- People who are suffering from diseases like Gaucher’s disease, Niemann-Pick disease, and any other inherited metabolic disorders affecting the liver and spleen.
- People who live in or travel to areas where malaria is common.
Many infections and diseases may cause an enlarged spleen. Contributing factors to the splenomegaly causes include:
- Viral infections, such as mononucleosis.
- Bacterial infections, such as syphilis or an infection of your heart’s inner lining (endocarditis).
- Parasitic infections, such as malaria.
- Cirrhosis and other diseases affecting the liver.
- Various types of hemolytic anemia — a condition characterized by early destruction of red blood cells.
- Blood cancers, for eg. leukemia and myeloproliferative neoplasms, and lymphomas, such as Hodgkin’s disease.
- Too much pressure on the veins in the spleen or liver or a blood clot in these veins.
An enlarged spleen is generally detected by physical examination. The doctor can feel it by gently examining your left abdomen. The splenomegaly doctor also known as oncologists may conduct some tests to confirm the diagnosis of splenomegaly. Some of these are:
- Blood tests, is done to check the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in your system.
- Ultrasound or CT scan to help determine the size of your spleen and whether it’s crowding other organs.
- MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imagining for helping in tracing the blood flow through the spleen.
However, Imaging tests are not always needed to detect an enlarged spleen.
Treatment of Spleen enlargement is done according to its underlying causes.
If you find that you have the bacterial infection, treatment will include antibiotics or the medicines for splenomegaly and help in splenomegaly cure.
Spleen Removal Surgery –
If an enlarged spleen causes serious complications or the cause can’t be identified, surgical removal of your spleen (splenectomy) may be an option. In the critical cases, surgery may offer the best hope for recovery.
Effective spleen removal requires careful consideration. After Spleen removal, certain measures should be taken to reduce the risk of infection. Vaccinations should be taken both before and after the surgery. These include Pneumococcal (Pneumovax 23), meningococcal, and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib) vaccines, which protect against pneumonia, meningitis, and infections of the blood, bones, and joints. Also, penicillin and other antibiotics should be taken to avoid the chance of infection.
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Prevention of Splenomegaly may be meaningless. However, some of the medical causes such as liver cirrhosis can be prevented by the cessation of alcohol abuse. Preventive measures against a possible rupture of the spleen are noteworthy. Avoiding contact sports and wearing seat belts are important measures to take in the prevention of splenic rupture.