There are many diseases which can negatively impact the spleen, typically causing it to become enlarged, a condition known as splenomegaly. A variety of infections, including bacterial, viral, and parasitic, are frequent causes of spleen enlargement. Another of the most common spleen diseases is sickle cell disease, which can cause splenomegaly as well as asplenia, where the organ ceases to function properly. Certain types of cancers can also lead to problems with the spleen. Cysts and tumors may also form there, which can lead to enlargement and issues with correct function.
Many types of infections can become spleen diseases, leading to enlargement of the organ. One common virus that affects the spleen is the Epstein-Barr virus, which causes mononucleosis; this virus can cause splenomegaly and make the spleen more likely to rupture. Another virus that can enlarge the organ is hepatitis. Malaria, which is caused by a parasitic infection, can also negatively impact the spleen. Some bacterial infections, such as brucellosis or bacterial endocarditis, can also be to blame.
A condition that is often hard on the spleen is sickle cell disease. One of the spleen's main functions is to clear damaged cells from the blood. With this disorder, the red blood cells break easily and the spleen may become enlarged and overworked from clearing the excess debris from the bloodstream, particularly during acute attacks of the disease. Some other spleen diseases that may cause issues due to abnormally shaped blood cells include the hereditary disorders spherocytosis and elliptocytosis. It can also be the result of hemolytic anemia, a disorder in which the body's red blood cells break down and die abnormally.
Some cancers can be considered spleen diseases as well, as they can lead to splenomegaly. For example, leukemia, which leads to a significant increase in immature or abnormal blood cells in the body, can cause the spleen to become enlarged as it tries to process the blood. Certain lymphomas may negatively impact the spleen as well.
The spleen may also become enlarged or have trouble functioning if it is affected by different types of growths. Tumors may form on the spleen; they may be benign types like hemangiomas or cancerous types like hemangiosarcomas. The organ may also develop cysts. Sometimes inflammatory nodules, known as granulomas, may form there due to a condition known as sarcoidosis.