An enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) is not a disease in itself but the result of an underlying disorder. Many disorders can make the spleen enlarge. To pinpoint the cause, a doctor must consider disorders ranging from chronic infections to blood cancers.
Unlike in ruptured spleen, when the spleen enlarges, it traps and stores an excessive number of blood cells and platelets (hypersplenism), thereby reducing the number of blood cells and platelets in the bloodstream.
This process creates a vicious circle: the more cells and platelets the spleen traps, the larger it grows; the larger it grows, the more cells and platelets it traps. Eventually, the greatly enlarged spleen also traps normal red blood cells, destroying them along with the abnormal ones.
In addition, excessive numbers of blood cells and platelets can clog the spleen, interfering with its functioning. An enlarged spleen may outgrow its own blood supply. When parts of the spleen do not get enough blood, they may become damaged, causing them to bleed or die. An enlarged spleen does not cause many symptoms, and the symptoms that it does cause may be mistaken for many other medical conditions.
Because the enlarged spleen lies next to the stomach and sometimes presses against it, a person may feel full after eating a small snack or even without eating. A person may also have abdominal or back pain in the area of the spleen; the pain may spread to the left shoulder, especially if parts of the spleen do not get enough blood and start to die. When the spleen removes too many blood cells and platelets from the blood stream, a variety of problems may develop.
These problems include anemia as a result of too few red blood cells, and the tendency to bleed as a result of too few platelets (lack of platelets causes bleeding). A doctor may suspect that the spleen is enlarged when the person complains of fullness or pain in the upper left portion of the abdomen or back.
Usually the doctor or clinical officer can feel an enlarged spleen during a physical examination. An X-ray of the abdomen may also show that the spleen is enlarged. In some cases, an ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan is needed to determine how large the spleen is and whether it is pressing on other organs.
There are many diseases that may cause enlarged spleen in our environment like: malaria, tuberculosis, brucellosis, kala-azar and or leukemia, if bone marrow examined cancer cells may be discovered. It is important also to examine and test the liver functions to exclude its damage. There are conditions which cause enlarged liver and spleen at the same time. No cause for alarm, please consult your doctor to clarify the matter to you.
There are no self prescriptions when it comes to enlarged liver and or spleen. Sometimes at the discretion and opinion of a panel of experts of medicine an enlarged spleen may need to be removed surgically on particular medical conditions where the blood forming system cannot cope with the destruction of blood cells and platelets.
In Africa where malaria is common, those people whose spleens have been removed should be closely monitored to make sure that they don’t get severe attack of malaria-by prompt treatment and or prophylaxis. Under some circumstances, antibiotics are recommended to prevent infections, particularly when the person has another condition (such as sickle-cell disease or cancer) that increases the risk of developing life-threatening conditions.
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