There are many different things that can cause spleen pain, so it’s important to take into consideration all of your symptoms. There are even some health issues that may cause symptoms that feel like spleen pain, although the pain may actually be in a different organ or body part near the spleen. The stomach is right next to the spleen, so sometimes symptoms of problems with these two organs may feel very similar.
An enlarged spleen is always a symptom of another disorder, which can be anything from an infection, anemia, or even cancer. When the spleen becomes enlarged, it traps too many blood cells and platelets inside, thus keeping them out of the bloodstream. There’s often a snowball effect with an enlarged spleen, meaning that the larger it gets, the more blood cells will trap in an endless cycle.
Usually the cause of spleen pain is an enlarged spleen, and there are many problems that can cause this. Symptoms of an enlarged spleen include fullness or pain in the upper left abdomen or back. Sometimes the pain spreads to the left shoulder. Patients sometimes dismiss spleen pain because it doesn’t feel like anything worse than overeating. Doctors can usually feel your abdomen to see if your spleen feels like it’s enlarged, although they will also do an X-ray to see just how big the spleen has gotten.
Doctors will usually run blood tests if they suspect an enlarged spleen. The blood tests will indicate decreased numbers of blood cells, which is further confirmation of an enlarged spleen. The shape of the blood cells can indicate exactly what the problem is that’s causing the spleen. However, if the blood tests are inconclusive as far as the cause of the spleen pain, then the doctor may do a bone marrow exam. This will reveal any cancer cells if there are any. Common cancers that are revealed in this manner are leukemia and lymphoma.
Another test the doctor may want to run is a blood protein measurement. This will show him if there are any other reasons the spleen may be enlarged, like malaria, tuberculosis, or other infections. A liver function test will show if the disease has also affected the liver. If necessary, doctors can also remove the enlarged spleen. Workers at a laboratory will then determine the exact cause for the enlarged spleen, which will help doctors with their treatment of the patient.
Surgery is usually only an option for spleen pain if the spleen is destroying platelets, red blood cells, or white blood cells so quickly that the patient has severe anemia or is in danger of developing bleeding or infections. Another time surgery may be a requirement for an enlarged spleen is if the organ has become so large that it starts putting pressure or pain on other nearby organs.
In very severe cases, the spleen may even become so large that it begins to bleed or starts to die. Sometimes radiation is also used to shrink the spleen back to a manageable size.
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