Spleen Disorders

Spleen Disorders

A spleen is a spongy purplish gray organ of a vertebrate, responsible for filtration of blood. This gland can be affected due to a number of disorders which inhibit the normal functioning of this important organ.
HealthHearty Staff
Spleen is a soft organ located right under the rib cage in the upper left side of the abdomen. It is covered by fibrous tissue called the splenic capsule that supports the constituent blood vessels and tissues. This organ is primarily responsible for enhancing the immune system of the body. Spleen is made of two tissues: the white pulp and the red pulp. The white pulp produces white blood cells (lymphocytes) which generate antibodies to fight invasion of any foreign radical substances. Whereas, the red pulp generates phagocytes which scavenge the blood off all microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. The red pulp is also a reservoir of white blood cells and platelets (responsible for blood clotting) and removes damaged cells from the body. However, any malfunction caused in the functioning of spleen is likely to lead to problems in the spleen.

Disorders of the Spleen
Spleen disorders are usually caused by chronic infections and carcinogenic ailments. One of the major spleen problems is a swollen spleen. This is not a disease but a disorder which could be a result of some pre-existing ailments in the body.

Enlarged Spleen - Causes
This is the most common spleen disorder, which is diagnosed when extreme pain is felt in the upper left abdomen or back. An enlarged spleen is also called splenomegaly. When a spleen enlarges, it overdoes its function of storing an excessive number of blood cells and platelets. As it keeps growing, it eventually starts trapping the healthy red blood cells as well, destroying them in the process of blood filtration. Symptoms of an enlarged spleen may be inconspicuous and are many times mistaken for other medical conditions. Some of the major symptoms of this glandular problem include:
  • Fullness felt in stomach even after a small meal
  • Bouts of abdominal pain and back pain
  • Extremely slow blood clotting
A CT scan or an MRI scan is usually recommended for diagnosis of spleen disorders like splenomegaly. Blood tests are carried out to confirm the decreased number of blood cells and platelets. Any change in their shape or size may hint at clues leading to the cause of spleen enlargement. Bone marrow samples are also taken to identify if the cause of the spleen disorder could be cancer of blood cells (lymphoma and leukemia). Investigating the amount of proteins in blood, help in determining if there were some persistent conditions (like brucellosis, tuberculosis, malaria, sarcoidosis, amyloidosis, etc.) that caused the spleen to enlarge. One of the major afflictions caused due to the above spleen disorder is anemia, as the number of red blood cells reduce drastically with the enlargement of spleen.

Enlarged Spleen - Treatment
In extreme medical conditions where the spleen has enlarged to such an extent that it starts to bleed, surgical removal of spleen is recommended by doctors. This procedure is called splenectomy. Removal of spleen is a serious procedure and is supposed to be carried out in medical cases like ruptured spleen (Bleeding of spleen due to external spleen injury). However a body can sustain without a spleen, as the liver takes over some of the primary responsibilities of spleen. But splenectomy does increase the susceptibility of the body to other infections. Radiation therapy is an alternative enlarged spleen treatment - a tough procedure that is used to shrink the enlarged spleen. Spleen disorders are usually treated by pediatric hematologists or blood specialists.

Spleen disorders in children are quite common, as children are quite sensitive to infections pertaining to their developing immunity. The most common symptoms that may hint at a spleen disorder are:
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Low-grade fever (38.5 ÂșC)
  • Cough and strep throat
  • Frequent chills and running nose
  • Incessant vomiting
  • Prolonged headaches
Most palpable causes for enlarged spleen in children are external injuries and viral diseases. When diagnosing children for spleen disorders, doctors take into account the medical history of the child to identify the cause, apart from studying the symptoms of spleen disorder. In case of spleen removal in children, they are put on an antibiotics routine to protect the body against infections.

Spleen Disorders in Animals
Spleen problems in dogs are diagnosed by symptoms of:
  • Dark brown urine (caused by splenic torsion - enlargement of spleen)
  • Growth of a lump in the abdominal area, suggesting a possibility of tumor
  • Weak gums and lethargy (suggests hemorrhage)
Spleen disorders in dogs can be treated by splenectomy. Chemotherapy treatments are recommended by vets if the enlarged spleen in dogs has led to malignant growths in abdomen. In strong medical conditions, dogs suffering splenic hemorrhage may require an immediate blood transfusion. Spleen problems in cats may lead to intestinal afflictions like diarrhea and bowel malfunction. The most probable causes for spleen disorder in cats could be food poisoning, viral infections and hyperthyroidism.

Spleen is an important organ, although its removal does not stall the normal functioning of the body. It is responsible for sustaining a healthy immune system and protects the body from viral infections and diseases. To prevent spleen disorders, it is advised to take food with rich vitamin supplements and minerals.