Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly) Symptoms and Causes
Many individuals are unfamiliar with the spleen, a fragile organ that can be stretched far beyond its regular size when dealing with certain diseases. Unless one experiences serious injury, it usually does not cause any issues. However, it can be easily damaged and bleed profusely when broken.
The spleen is like the liver in that it cleans the blood, getting rid of any impurities. However, the main purpose of the spleen is to detect and eliminate damaged red and white blood cells. The liver is responsible for recognizing these defective cells and disposing of them.
The organ is extremely delicate and situated in the area behind the ribs to guard against breaks, however splenomegaly can heighten the danger of injury, possibly even causing a life-threatening situation in the most extreme cases.
What is Splenomegaly?
Splenomegaly is an enlarged spleen that is bigger than normal. It is not a disease on its own, but rather the physical sign of an underlying health problem.
The spleen grows in both size and weight, and its purpose may also change. This organ is essential in filtering out old and damaged red blood cells from the bloodstream. When these cells are destroyed in certain conditions, the remains are taken to the spleen to be processed.
The spleen is vital for the body’s immune system, as it produces two proteins that are important for the system’s operation: tuftsin and properdin. Additionally, it is a place where white blood cells mature, and it holds up to one-third of the total circulating platelets.
The spleen size and weight vary according to the size and weight of the person. Generally, bigger and heavier people will have bigger spleens. The normal length is 12-20 cm and weight is 70-200 grams. When it reaches 400-500 grams, it is referred to as splenomegaly and if it goes beyond 1000 grams, it is termed as massive splenomegaly.
Associated Signs & Symptoms
Splenomegaly is a sign of an underlying disease, not a health condition in itself. While it may be the only symptom of an illness, it often occurs in conjunction with other signs and symptoms. These can include an enlarged liver, abdominal pain or tenderness, anemia, easy bruising, fatigue, weight loss, and fever. In some cases, additional signs and symptoms of the underlying cause of splenomegaly may also be present. It is important to see a doctor if splenomegaly is suspected, as the underlying cause must be identified and treated.
1. Abdominal discomfort
It is often described as a feeling of unease rather than actual pain. It may be felt in the left upper portion of the abdomen, though some individuals may experience a radiating discomfort in their left shoulder. Physical examination may also reveal tenderness in the area.
2. Abdominal bloating
This symptom is very common, especially if the spleen is unusually large and making it difficult for food to pass through the digestive system. We should consider if the illness or something else is causing it.