Sometimes, the Spleen becomes enlarged and grows big enough inside the body to cause discomforts. This Spleen inflammation is known as Splenomegaly, meaning enlargement (megaly) of the Spleen. Read and know all about enlarged spleen, what causes it, its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.
Enlarged Spleen Size
The spleen of a normal, healthy adult is about 10 cms long and 3 cms thick. But an enlarged spleen can be about 16-17 cms in length. A swollen spleen is often accompanied with high fever and headache.
Causes of Splenomegaly (Enlarged Spleen)
Spleen gets enlarged when it has to work excessively for blood cell manufacturing and filtering of the bloodstream. Abnormal flow of blood to the spleen or invasion of the organ with abnormal cells and deposits can also lead to enlargement. This usually happens because of
Bacterial and Viral Infections
Viral infections like Infectious Mononucleosis, Viral Hepatitis and Aids as well as bacterial infections such as Malaria, Anaplasmosis and Tuberculosis can fill the Spleen with abnormal cells or deposits and cause spleen enlargement.
Metabolic disorders like Gaucher’s Disease, Hurler Syndrome and Niemann-Pick Disease can also act as Enlarged Spleen causes.
Abnormal Blood Cell Deposition
Disorders like Thalassemia, Spherocytosis and Sickle Cell Disease can produce abnormal shaped cells which eventually find their way into the small blood capillaries and vessels of the body. Unless removed by Spleen, these unusual cells may cause blood clots and reduce circulation. But the excess pressure of removing them from the bloodstream causes Spleen to swell.
Cancerous conditions such as Hodgkins Lymphoma, non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, tumors such as Melanomas and Leukemias can result in enlargement of the Spleen.
Obstruction of the Splenic Vein
The Splenic vein constitutes a number of small veins on the spleen surface and it joins the superior mesenteric to make the portal vein. It is through the Splenic vein that blood exits from the spleen. Increase of pressure inside the Splenic vein can cause its blockage and result in the swelling of the Spleen due to accumulation of blood inside it. Diseases like Congestive Heart Failure can increase venous pressure and lead to a swollen Spleen.
Side Effects of Medicines
Enlarged Spleen can also arise as a side effect of certain medications like Granocyte, Neupogen, Lenogastrim and Filgastrim. This is why it is always important to consult a doctor before using any medications. Many over-the-counter medicines like these can give rise to serious physical problems, including enlarged spleen.
Symptoms of Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly)
An enlarged Spleen is usually asymptomatic, meaning it produces no symptoms. But in some cases, it can give rise to several physical difficulties in a person. Some of the main Enlarged Spleen symptoms are
A person with a swollen spleen usually suffers from weakness if anemia is found to be the causative condition.
In some patients, reduction of platelets in the bloodstream can cause easy bleeding.
Impaired activity of white blood cells in the bloodstream can lead to recurring cases of infections in sufferers.
A swelling Spleen can push against the diaphragm, the muscle separating the chest and abdominal cavities. This can cause irritation of the diaphragm and eventually, pain in the left shoulder.
Steady Spleen swelling can also push the organ against the stomach and lead to other swollen Spleen symptoms like loss of appetite, overeating sensation and anorexia.
Enlarged Spleen Pain
An enlarged spleen usually grows out of the safety of the ribcage. This enhances the risk of injuries to this organ. An injured spleen can lead to pain and cause aches in the abdomen. Abdominal pain is common in case of an enlarged spleen. There can also be other symptoms such as pain in the shoulder and back, bleeding in the abdomen, shortness of breath, sweaty skin and fatigue depending upon the extent of spleen damage following an injury.
Enlarged Spleen Diagnosis
A swollen spleen is usually diagnosed by a doctor by physical observation of the symptoms. People who complain of pain or fullness in the upper left abdominal section or back are usually suspected of having an enlarged Spleen. A physical examination is generally carried out then to help doctors get sure about the enlargement.
Enlarged Spleen upon Examination
In the diagnosis of Enlarged Spleen X-Ray, Computed Tomography (CT) scan or Ultrasonography is effective in determining any change in the size of the spleen. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans can also help detect changes in spleen size and whether it is pressing on other organs. MRI is also helpful in tracing blood flow through Spleen.
Enlarged Spleen Blood Tests
Blood tests can also show any reduction in number of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Examining blood cells under microscope can help determine changes in their shape and size.
Enlarged Spleen Bone Marrow Biopsy
Bone marrow examination is useful in detecting accumulation of unwanted substances or cancerous blood cells. Special scanning devices can help in detecting accumulation or removal of high amounts of blood cells in the bloodstream.
Enlarged Spleen Treatment
Picture 1 – Normal and Enlarged Spleen
Source – valdezlink.com
Enlarged spleen cure involves treating the underlying cause of the disorder. If infections are the cause, antibiotics may be used to treat the disease. Spleen enlargement due to Hodgkin’s Disease or Leukemia may be treated with Radiation Therapy or Chemotherapy.
Enlarged Spleen Surgery
If the causative factor remains unclear during diagnosis, the condition may be cured with the aid of Spleen surgery. Surgical Operation may be the only option in critical or chronic cases. Operation involves removing a part of the spleen thus reducing the lowering of white blood cell (WBC) count.
Enlarged Spleen Removal
Splenectomy is the last option in case of this disease. The process involves complete removal of spleen from the human body. Spleen removal is helpful in curing all symptoms relating to complications associated with the organ.
Enlarged Spleen Radiation Therapy
In some cases of Enlarged Spleen radiation therapy is useful in shrinking the organ to its normal size. This makes cure possible without the use of Enlarged Spleen Surgery.
Enlarged Spleen Prognosis
An enlarged spleen usually comes back to its normal size once its underlying cause has been indentified and treated properly. In case of resolution of Infectious Monenucleosis, the spleen comes back to its original size once the infections starts getting better.
Enlarged Spleen Medications
Enlarged Spleen can be treated with Penicillin or antibiotic medicines if doctors suspect an infection to be the underlying cause. Quinine can be effective in cure if the condition arises in places where endemic diseases like Malaria are rampant.
Is Enlarged Spleen Genetic?
Enlarged spleen is not a hereditary condition in itself. But it can arise as a symptom of genetic diseases like Gaucher’s Disease. It is not clear whether heredity is an underlying cause of this condition.
Enlarged Spleen Dangers
An unusually swollen spleen can put health at risk and make its removal necessary. But on removal of enlarged spleen a number of complications may arise. These Enlarged Spleen risks are
In humans, the spleen is located close to the lungs. Spleen removal can increase risk of fluid accumulation in lungs, chest infection and pneumonia. This can cause lung collapse in serious cases. Lung collapse can be treated with respiratory and physical therapy. Pneumonia and chest infection can be cured by antibiotic therapies.
Spleen is an active part of the immune system that helps in removal of microbes, such as bacteria, from the body. Naturally, its removal makes the human body vulnerable to infections. There can be risk of Sepsis or the accumulation of pus-forming bacteria in the bloodstream. However, the risk of Sepsis reduces in the years after surgical removal. Sepsis is one of the worst removal of Enlarged Spleen side effects.
Excessive Blood Loss
In some cases, there can be a ruptured spleen filled with excess red blood cells. If the rupture occurs before surgical removal, there may be life-threatening consequences for the sufferer.
The spleen acts as a storehouse for blood platelets. Hence their removal increases the circulation of platelets throughout the human body. Research shows that spleen removal can increase the platelet level in blood by around 50 percent thus leading to Thrombocytosis. This condition can continue for over two weeks and result in the formation of blood clots that may put the life of the patient at risk.
Enlarged Spleen Natural Treatment
In the treatment of Enlarged Spleen natural remedies can be quite effective in providing relief from discomforting symptoms. These natural Enlarged Spleen remedies are
Lemon Juice Mixture
Mix 10 ml lemon juice with 6 ml of onion juice and consume the mixture daily in the morning and evening. This can help cure the condition.
Soak 5 date fruits overnight in a glass of water. Churn the mixture in the morning, add half teaspoon full of honey to it and drink it.
If properly treated in time, an enlarged spleen can be cured with least complications and the sufferer can get back to health in a short time.
Written by anirudh
on May 19th, 2011. The article was last updated on September 2nd, 2011