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Spleen problems - Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

Submitted by on March 11, 2011 – 1:56 amNo Comment



The spleen is that part of your body which is in the upper left part of the abdomen, just below your rib cage, towards the back. It belongs to the lymph system and plays a vital role in the fight against various infections attacking the body and serves as a drainage network. This is done through the production of white blood cells which help overcome foreign matter, dead tissue and bacterial matter by removing it from the blood as it goes through the spleen. It also helps to clot your blood, filter the same and abolish abnormal blood cells from the bloodstream through its stock of healthy white and red blood platelets and cells. While the absence of a spleen in the body by itself is not fatal, it increases the vulnerability to infections.

There are various causes that could lead to spleen problems. Spleen problems can be successfully diagnosed in several ways like a physical exam, CT scans, ultrasounds, an MRI scan and blood tests.

The most common among spleen problems is its enlargement. When a spleen enlarges, it shuts in an unnecessary amount of blood cells and platelets, thus lowering the quantity of platelets and blood cells in the bloodstream.

Causes:

  • A normal healthy spleen is about the size of a fist. However, some diseases like liver cirrhosis, leukemia, lymphoma, polycythemia vera and viral infections like mononucleosis could lead to possible spleen enlargement.
  • An overactive spleen, which is not really an issue.
  • Bacterial infections like endocarditis.
  • Parasitic infections like toxoplasmosis.
  • Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and sarcoidosis.
  • Cancer which has spread to the spleen.
  • Injury to the spleen.

Symptoms:

Several people are completely unaware when they have an enlarged spleen because there are barely any symptoms. Usually, a physical exam is the best way to check for any problem with the spleen. Some of the symptoms of an enlargement spleen are:

  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue.
  • Frequent infections.
  • Jaundice.
  • Easy bleeding.
  • Anaemia.
  • Being incapable of eating a large meal.
  • Feeling fullness, discomfort or pain in the upper left side of the abdomen which may later spread to the left shoulder.

Treatments:

Restrict all those activities which may cause trauma and rupture the spleen like extreme sports (baseball). While the absence of a spleen is fine, a ruptured spleen could lead to huge loss of blood and can also be life threatening. Always go to a doctor and seek professional help if you have an enlarged spleen. Self-medication may only aggravate it further. More often than not, treatment of the root cause of the enlargement can help to avoid spleen removal. If you leave it untreated, it could lead to further complications and once again be life threatening. Sometimes though, you may have to undergo a splenectomy or the surgical removal of the spleen. This is usually performed through laparoscopy – which is the preferred method of spleen removal as compared to open surgery.

Once you undergo splenectomy, you automatically become more susceptible to certain kinds of infections. To prevent this, there are various vaccines and medications available.

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