A Quick Look At Potential Spleen Problems

There are two general causes of spleen problems:

One is injury to the spleen, which may result from either a hard blow or a puncture.

The other problem, somewhat more common, is an enlarged spleen, which can be traced back to a variety of underlying causes.

The spleen is a vital organ in the sense that it plays an important role in the body's immune system. We can however live without a spleen, though the absence of the organ will bring a new set of problems.

Ruptured Spleen - Spleen problems can be difficult to diagnose, with the possible exception of damage to the spleen due to trauma. A ruptured spleen, or one that has been damaged by a puncture wound, such as by a knife or bullet, can be especially dangerous. In such an instance, there is likely to be a significant loss of blood. A ruptured spleen is definitely an emergency, requiring immediate medical attention.

Enlarged Spleen - An enlarged spleen is usually due to some underlying disorder. The condition may not exhibit any particular symptoms unless the degree of enlargement becomes significant enough to cause pressure on adjacent tissues or organs, most likely the stomach.

A person suffering from an enlarged spleen may feel abdominal pain, but most often will experience a feeling of fullness instead.

Just as other disorders can cause spleen problems, an enlarged or damaged spleen brings along with it the potential to cause problems in other organs. A weakened or damaged spleen will most definitely be harmful to the immune system in general, resulting in a higher chance of illness or infection.

The spleen also regulates the levels of red and white blood cells, or the blood count, and an enlarged spleen is likely to remove an excessive amount of these cells, the result being leukopenia or general anemia.

Removal Of The Spleen - Surgical removal of the spleen may be necessary if the spleen becomes damaged due to injury to the extent it cannot be repaired.

In the case of an enlarged spleen, the spleen may not be able to receive enough blood to nourish itself, and tissue in the spleen may begin to die. If the underlying cause cannot be determined, removal of the spleen may be the only viable option.

Spleen problems associated with spleen removal would, in general, reflect problems associated with a weakened immune system. A person who has had his or her spleen removed would be more apt to suffer from infections and illness than would be the case if their spleen was healthy and intact.

4 diseases which can sometimes damage the spleen to the point where its removal is necessary:

Sickle cell anemia

Lymphoma

Mononucleosis

Cirrhosis of the liver

Symptoms Of A Damaged Spleen - Symptoms of an abnormally functioning spleen include:

A feeling of fullness

Pain or tenderness in the upper left abdomen

Pain in the left shoulder

Pain in the left shoulder can be an indicator that the spleen has become enlarged to the point that some of the tissues are beginning to die.

Symptoms of an enlarged spleen may include a general feeling of fatigue and an onset of frequent infections.

If the spleen has been ruptured, blood pressure may drop significantly due to internal bleeding, and the affected person may consequently feel lightheaded or appear confused.

Most of us don't know a great deal about the spleen or what it does, and it is often confused with the liver. Where the liver is a large body organ, the spleen is much smaller, about the size of one's fist.

Location And Size Of Liver
Location And Size Of Spleen

One misconception of the spleen is that it acts as a reservoir for the blood. The spleen only stores the blood it is actively working on in its immune system capacity. If damaged, the fact that significant blood loss from the spleen can occur, apparently lends support to the reservoir theory.


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