Majority of the people today who have some sort of health condition are not even aware of having it as they tend to confuse the signs of the problem with everyday issues. One of such conditions is having an enlarged spleen.
In accordance with the statistics, 3 percent of the college students who are otherwise healthy have an enlarged spleen. Why does this condition occur? The reasons can vary from person to person. In some cases, people have an enlarged spleen due to family history and genetics.
People who have genetically enlarged spleens do not have any health issues as it does not affect their general health. On the other hand, enlarged spleens can also often highlight some underlying issue or infection that may be in process of developing.
What makes an enlarged spleen complicated it that most of the people who have it are not able to see any noticeable symptoms until it progresses to a painful stage. It can even reach a point where there is no other treatment but immediate surgery.
What Is An Enlarged Spleen?
The spleen is usually cited as the main organ responsible for safeguarding the body from all kinds of attacks from bacteria, virus, or fungi. It is an essential part of the lymphatic system without which it cannot function properly.
An enlarged spleen or what is also known as splenomegaly is a fundamental sign of the reduction in the ability of the immune system to fight off potential illnesses and pathogens effectively.
Generally, the size of the spleen is around the same as that of a fist. It cannot be felt during any kind of physical examination due to its small size.
Whenever a person is having a health condition or problems in the lymphatic system, the spleen swells and grows much larger depending on the severity of the illness or issue.
Majority of the times people are not able to tell that their spleen is a size that is considered normal. At other times, a swollen spleen is extremely noticeable especially when it grows dramatically and brings the extreme pain with it.
Swelling of the spleen is not always a health concern. Some of the people might just have it due to their genetics but it does show that the immune system is putting in extra effort to protect the body. Therefore, it is suggested that it should be checked properly before it can cause more complications.
What Is The Role Of The Spleen?
The spleen is a crucial part of the lymphatic system and mainly protects the body from many different kinds of pathogens as well as the effects of stress, certain toxins, and harmful particles, and even deficiencies.
It is an oval-shaped organ that is brown in color and is right under the ribcage at the upper left side of the abdomen. Unusual swelling at this part of the abdomen that comes with pain is an indicator of dramatically swollen spleens.
The most important function that is performed by the spleen is the production of antibodies in order to fight foreign invaders such as bacteria and many others. Additionally, the spleen also performs a number of other functions.
Balancing and transporting fluid levels, removing toxins and other waste from the muscles and joint tissues, keeping the blood clean, and maintaining the blood platelet count are some of the other duties performed by the spleen.
Controlling and balancing the number of red blood cells required in the blood is also the job of the spleen and removes inactive cells that are no longer needed so other cells may take their place.
The spleen produces phagocytes and lymphocytes which are two important white blood cells that are mainly responsible for combating against different types of infections.
Almost all of the complications and problems linked with the spleen are because of the increase in its size. An enlarged spleen also increases the risk for a dysfunctional and ruptured spleen. This is usually the result of ignoring an enlarged spleen for too long.
Spleen, just like many other organs in the body such as the ones included in the digestive system, is sensitive to parasites, toxins, and other harmful substances entering the body that can also come from food or even drugs and medication.
The spleen is especially easily affected when there are problems in the liver function. A person with a poor diet that is high in salty or sour foods has higher chances of having spleen complication. According to Ayurvedic medicine, diet, overwork and poor digestion can cause an enlarged spleen.
In many of such cases, the enlarged spleen occurs with problems in digestion or liver issues which can lead to even greater damage to the health.
An enlarged spleen can cause low energy levels, changes in appetite, poor digestion, changes in blood flow and body weight, physical pain, signs of anemia, and increase the chance of developing an infection or illness as a malfunctioning spleen means the body has to put in more effort to protect itself.
What Are The Symptoms Of An Enlarged Spleen?
As mentioned before, a majority of the people with an enlarged spleen do not notice any symptoms as they are either not visible or easily confused with everyday health conditions. People with considerably swollen spleen typically discover it during a physical examination.
Normally, the doctors and health professionals are not able to feel a spleen in a physical examination because it is small in size. Whenever a doctor can feel the spleen, it automatically means it is swollen and something is not right.
Generally, there is no fixed healthy size of the spleen since a normal size varies from person to person and depends on the weight, body surface area, age, height, and sex. Studies on the matter have shown that the normal sizes of the spleen can range from 58 grams to 170 grams.
A size that does not seem suitable for the person after looking at the mentioned factors is usually considered abnormal. An enlarged spleen can be a sign of a potential illness, infection, cognitive diseases and other health issues.
The symptoms of an enlarged spleen include:
- Bleeding and bruising easily
- Feeling uncomfortable after eating or indigestion
- Signs of anemia
- Unexplained changes in the body weight (usually weight loss)
- Pain in the area where the spleen is located along with tenderness (upper left of the abdomen)
- Frequent and often reoccurring infections (such as urinary tract, ear, chest, sinus, and respiratory infections)
- Low energy levels
- Chronic fatigue
- Pain in the spleen upon moving or even breathing
- Signs of jaundice (such as yellowish tint in the skin)
- Pain that travels from the abdomen all the way to the left shoulder
The most dangerous side effect of an enlarged and malfunctioning spleen is the increased risk of developing any kind of infection or disease as the body’s defense mechanism is reduced with less production of white blood cells and cleaning of the blood.
Hence, with no antibodies to destroy bacteria or other microbes, people with an enlarged spleen find it hard to get rid of any infection. In addition, the toxins present in the bloodstream are not removed efficiently which gives them enough times to cause issues.
With a malfunctioning spleen, the body is also not able to maintain the number of white blood cells and red blood cells that are needed for energy and platelets in the body. Hence, an enlargement of the spleen can disturb the whole life of a person.
In case of an enlarged spleen due to genetics, the effects are not the same and it does not seem to cause any health complications.