Your spleen is located behind your stomach and below your rib cage. As the largest organ of your lymphatic system, it filters blood as it circulates through the body. It is actually a critical part of your immune system. Combined with your lymph nodes, the spleen fights infections and prevents disease by removing cellular waste and other toxins from the bloodstream.
Causes of Splenomegaly
- Decreased blood flow – When blood flow is diminished through the splenic vein, this imbalance creates pressure that causes blood to back up. Liver disease and congestive heart failure can both impact blood flow.
- Blood disorder – Blood disorders that result in the overproduction or damage of blood cells can enlarge the spleen. While it’s designed to filter out damaged cells, sometimes the spleen can’t keep up with the pace and frequency created by some blood disorders. Sickle cell disease, hemolytic anemia, and spherocytosis are all blood conditions that can lead to an enlarged spleen.
- Metabolic disease – The way your body converts substances is called metabolism. When this process is made abnormal by disease, it affects things on the cellular level. Hurler syndrome, Gaucher disease, Neumann-Pick disease, and Amyloidosis all create abnormal buildups, deficiencies, and other changes that damage and enlarge the spleen.
- Infection – Infections can take their toll on your spleen’s ability to function as a part of your immune system.
- Cancer – Cancers that affect the different components of your blood can change how your spleen responds. Because your spleen targets and filters out damaged cells, keeping up with an increased number of abnormal cells can overwhelm it. Leukemia and lymphoma are two examples of cancer that can lead to Splenomegaly.
Symptoms of Splenomegaly
Because you can’t actually feel the enlargement of your spleen, there aren’t any symptoms. Splenomegaly is typically discovered during an examination for another issue. Some signs that may lead to a Splenomegaly diagnosis are shortness of breath and fatigue.
Treatment of Splenomegaly
The treatment of an enlarged spleen is based on the underlying condition that caused it. Determining what caused the Splenomegaly and treating it will ultimately treat your spleen. Surgery is only required in severe cases like lymphoma when its enlarged size becomes destructive for red blood cells and platelets. This procedure is called a splenectomy and involves removing all or part of the spleen.