Your spleen, a fist sized, spongy type organ, is located just under your ribs in the upper left abdominal area. Being a part of your lymph system, it participates in your body’s battle against infections.
Your spleen plays other important roles as well, such as:
- filters unwanted material
- destroys old, damaged cells
- produces red, white blood cells
- assists in keeping body fluids in balance
- helps control the amount of blood in your body
Despite all this, you can live without a spleen because other organs will take over this vital work.
Many disorders, infections, anemia and cancers may cause your spleen to enlarge. And splenomegaly is med speak for an enlarged spleen. Its enlargement may cause no symptoms or you might experience:
- frequent infections
- you may feel tired, weak
- upper left abdominal pain
- increased tendency to bleed
- spreading pain to your left shoulder
- feeling of fullness without eating or after eating very little
A few infection causes for an enlarged spleen include:
- viral infections ~ mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus
- parasitic infections ~ malaria, leishmaniasis, schistosomiasis
- bacterial infections ~ syphilis, endocarditis, leptospirosis, typhoidal salmonella
Disorders and cancers involved in causing your spleen to become enlarged include:
- pancreatic cancer
- hemolytic anemia
- sickle cell disease
- cat scratch disease
- primary amyloidosis
- advanced liver disease
- some types of porphyria
- disseminated tuberculosis
- pyruvate kinase deficiency
- immunodeficiency disorders
- juvenile rheumatoid arthritis
- autoimmune lymphproliferative syndrome
- blood cancers ~ leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma
- glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G-6-PD) deficiency
- metabolic disorders ~ Gaucher disease, Niemann-Pick disease
The most common complication of Mono is a ruptured spleen.
The other typical cause for a spleen to rupture is the result of a forceful blow to your left upper abdomen. An injured spleen may rupture soon after this abdominal wound, or possibly weeks later.
Abdominal pain and tenderness are primary symptoms of a ruptured spleen. Other accompanying symptoms you may experience:
A ruptured spleen has the potential to pour large amounts of blood into your abdominal cavity. This is a very serious condition, requiring emergency treatment.
Spleen removal may be necessary after a spleen injury or to treat diseases and spleen cancer. Although you can survive without your spleen, your body does lose some of its ability to fight infections.
The impairment of infection fighting is in the production of protective antibodies and removal of unwanted microorganisms from the blood. Thus, your are at a particularly high risk of infections. Because of this health risk, you may need to receive regular vaccinations or take antibiotics.