Splenomegaly is a condition that occurs when your spleen becomes enlarged. It’s also commonly referred to as enlarged spleen or spleen enlargement. 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. Your spleen is extremely important in your body’s fight against infection because it’s the source of two types of white blood cells: B cells and T cells. White blood cells protect your body from bacteria and infections.
What Can Cause Splenomegaly?
A number of diseases and conditions can cause an enlarged spleen. Infections, such as mononucleosis, are among the most common causes of splenomegaly. Problems with your liver, such as cirrhosisand cystic fibrosis, can also cause an enlarged spleen. Another possible cause of splenomegaly is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. This condition can cause inflammation of the lymph system. Because the spleen is part of the lymph system, this inflammation can result in the spleen becoming enlarged.
Relieving your Splenomegaly
To treat your enlarged spleen, your doctor will have to treat the underlying cause. If the cause of your enlarged spleen is an infection, your doctor may or may not prescribe you antibiotics depending on the organism causing the infection. If the infection that causes your enlarged spleen is caused by bacteria, antibiotics may help. If a virus caused your infection, as is the case with mononucleosis, antibiotics would be of no help. In serious cases, your doctor might suggest that you have your spleen removed, which is called a splenectomy. It’s entirely possible to live a normal, healthy life after having your spleen removed. Your risk of developing infections throughout your life may increase. But you can reduce your risk of getting infections by getting the appropriate vaccinations.
Most people don’t know they have an enlarged spleen because symptoms are rare. People usually find out about it during a physical exam. These are the most common symptoms of an enlarged spleen:
- Being unable to eat a large meal.
- Feeling discomfort, fullness, or pain on the upper left side of the abdomen; this pain may spread to your left shoulder.
Limit any activities that could rupture your spleen, such as contact sports. A ruptured spleen can cause lots of blood loss and be life threatening. It’s important to seek treatment for the cause of your enlarged spleen. Left untreated, an enlarged spleen can lead to serious complications. In most cases, treatment of the underlying cause of the enlarged spleen can prevent removal of the spleen. In some cases, the spleen will need to be removed surgically (splenectomy). If surgery is needed, a surgeon is likely to remove the spleen using laparoscopy rather than open surgery. This means the surgery is performed through small incisions. A laparoscope allows the surgeon to view and remove the spleen. If your spleen is removed, you cannot effectively clear certain bacteria from your body and will be more vulnerable to certain infections. So vaccines or other medications are needed to prevent infection.
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Dr. Ujwal Zambare
MBBS, MS (General Surgery), DNB (Gastrointestinal Surgery)
Fellowship in Minimal Access Surgery
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