Normally, the spleen, an infection-fighting organ found in the upper left section of the abdomen, is slightly larger than a baseball. Sometimes, however, underlying medical issues can cause the organ to swell considerably, a condition known technically as splenomegaly. While a swollen spleen often presents no symptoms, it may occasionally cause discomfort and difficulty eating. In many cases, a spleen swelling goes unrecognized until the underlying condition which is causing it begins to present symptoms.
The spleen is part of the body’s lymphatic system, and it plays an important role in fighting infections. It manufacturers white blood cells, which help eliminate bacteria, viruses, and other foreign particles from the body, and also filters the blood that moves through it. A wide number of underlying medical conditions, such as infections, cancer, and liver disease, can cause the spleen to swell. Those with a swollen spleen may have a lowered resistance to infections. Additionally, an inflamed spleen can sometimes rupture, causing dangerous internal bleeding.
Unfortunately, a swollen spleen often presents no symptoms. Therefore, it is possible for an individual to experience enlargement of this organ without any knowledge of it. Sometimes, an individual may learn of the condition only when a physician detects swelling during a chance physical examination.
If the spleen becomes very swollen, it may begin to exert pressure on the stomach, which is positioned nearby. In this case, the individual may find that she becomes full after consuming only a small amount of food. She may also feel a dull, lingering pain in the upper left side of her back, which may radiate upward to her shoulder.
It is quite common for a swollen spleen to go unrecognized until the underlying medical condition responsible for the enlargement begins to present symptoms unrelated to the spleen. For instance, if the swelling is caused by a viral infection, like mononucleosis, the individual might experience such symptoms as extreme fatigue, sore throat, and fever. These symptoms may lead the individual to visit a physician, who may then detect a swollen spleen during an exploratory examination.
Treatment of a swollen spleen usually involves addressing the underlying issue which is causing the swelling. Depending on the nature of that underlying issue, treatment options can range from something as simple as taking a course of antibiotics to major procedures such as radiation. If an enlarged spleen does not respond to treatment, a physician may recommend its surgical removal.