About Spleen Disorders

Spleen disorders are mainly a danger when left unaddressed.  Although you can survive having you spleen removed (called a splenectomy), you might not be able to survive the causes of spleen disorders.  That is why it is important to make an appointment with your doctor if you feel you may have a spleen condition.


The Purpose and Function of the Spleen

The spleen is a bodily organ that rests in the left side of the abdominal cavity, between the 9th to 12th ribs.  The spleen’s central purpose is to get rid of old red blood cells, although it also functions as reservoir for blood in case you suddenly need it due to some sort of trauma.  The spleen also processes iron into the blood. 

Although all of these functions are important, the liver will usually pick up the slack in case of the loss of your spleen.


There are two main types of spleen disorders.  The most common one is a splenomegaly, commonly called an enlarged spleen.

A host of diseases and conditions can lead to an enlarged spleen.  Typically causes range from relatively innocuous conditions like mononucleosis and minor blockages like cysts, to very severe conditions like Hodgkin’s disease or leukemia.  Additionally infections can also cause the spleen to enlarge as can trauma to the abdominal cavity.

The typical symptoms of an enlarged spleen are a persistent or increasing pain to the upper left abdomen.  This pain may be exacerbated when taking deep breathes and in some cases has been known to be experienced in the sufferer’s arm.

A longer-term symptom may involve feeling increasingly tired.  This occurs because when the spleen does not function correctly, the lack of iron can make the sufferer feel tired.  The body may also have a lack of red blood cells making the sufferer anemic. 

Minor symptoms can include feeling as it you have eaten a great deal even after only a couple of bites.  This happens when the enlarged spleen pinches against the stomach.     

In some cases, you may be able to palpate the spleen from outside by feeling the upper left corner of the abdomen.


The other main type of spleen disorder is asplenia.  As the name indicates, a-splenia is the lack of a spleen function.  The condition may be due to several causes.  In some cases, it is due to the actual lack of a spleen.  Typically, such patients are born without a spleen.  For such individuals precautions must be taken to compensate for their compromised immune system function. 

A person may also lack a spleen due to a splenectomy.

Usually, however, this just refers to an underlying condition that has deteriorated the functioning of the spleen to the point where the sufferer is, in effect, without the functions of this bodily organ.  Although this also occurs to those suffering form splenomegaly, the conditions differ, in that, asplenia diseases do not cause the spleen to become enlarged.


Regardless of whether you have asplenia or splenomegaly, disorders with any of your organs are not something you want to ignore.  Medicine has found ways to treat most conditions affecting the spleen.  However, the key to a successful outcome in many instances requires that the sufferer from a spleen disorder seek help from a medical professional within a given period of time.  This is especially the case when it comes to an enlarged spleen, which must be treated before it bursts.  Once the spleen bursts complications due to infection multiply extending treatment periods and increasing the chances of negative outcomes.

In many cases, the treatment for spleen disorders is simply a course of medications.  Many times the source of the problem presenting in the spleen is actually in an organ or bodily location outside of the spleen.  Often taking care of this problem will reduce the spleen.

Sometimes, however, a splenectomy is the only solution.  The key, however, is to get to it early.



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