What You Should Know about Spleen Function

Spleen function is probably not the first thing that you think of in the morning when you wake up.  The spleen, however, is an important bodily organ.  It serves a very important function in terms of keeping your body healthy.

The spleen is the warehouse where old blood cells are held until they’re called upon to perform important bodily tasks like healing lacerations.

Signs that something is wrong with the spleen.

There are several signs that can indicate a problem with spleen function.  One of the major signs is what is called an “enlarged spleen.”  An enlarged spleen traps but doesn’t release blood; so the spleen fills up like a balloon.  However, like a balloon that fills and fills and fills, if it doesn’t eventually release its contents it pops.  If this happens, you have a serious problem on your hands (or, more accurately, in your abdominal cavity).

When they suspect an enlarged spleen, doctors look for lack of appetite (the spleen’s proximity to the stomach makes it push up against the stomach making the patient feel as if they are “full”) and stomach pains that are actually coming from the spleen.  Over time the lack of red and white blood cells will cause anemia and increased chances of infections.  The platelets trapped in the spleen will also cause more than usual bleeding.

So what are some common problems that can occur to disrupt proper spleen function?

Spleen Cancer

A number of lymphomas begin as tumors in the spleen.  These cancers, like most cancers that affect our internal organs have a high mortality if not caught early.

Along with the other signs of an enlarged spleen, we have already mentioned are the symptoms that accompany a cancer of the spleen.  Because cancers of the spleen affect the lymphatic system of the body, the lymph nodes on the neck and in the armpits will also become enlarged (although they may still be pain free even on palpation). 

The sufferer may also experience persistent fevers and infections.  They are, as with many cancers affecting the internal organs, likely to experience weight loss and night sweats.


There are also a number of infections that can affect spleen function.

The number one viral infection to worry about when it comes to spleen function is mononucleosis.  The Epstein - Barr virus causes mononucleosis, a disease that results in saturation of harmful lymphocytes throughout the blood stream.

Bacterial infections like the sexually transmitted disease syphilis can also cause impairments of spleen function, when they infect the lymph nodes.

We usually think of the liver as being the main worry of alcoholics, but cirrhosis also affects the spleen.  This is because as the liver becomes infected it stops receiving blood from the spleen, thus producing the effects of an “enlarged spleen”.

Hemolytic Anemia

Hemolytic anemia is a disease caused when red blood cells are destroyed before they are able to perform their necessary functions in the body.  It can be caused by several conditions including many of the same things that cause other problems in the spleen, like infection and cancer.  However, it can also be hereditary or be caused for wholly separate reasons.

Misc. Diseases

There are also a series of other diseases that can also cause problems for the spleen.  Guacher’s disease, for example, is a metabolic disease caused by the lack of an enzyme that keeps fats from accumulating in organs like the spleen and liver. 


Of course, a blow to the area may also cause your spleen to “pop” and bleed out.

Blood Clots

Blood clots can also cause the spleen to enlarge and produce the same negative effects.

Get to a Doctor

If you have any of these symptoms, you should consult a physician.  Early detection is the key.

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