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Enlarged Spleen - Treating this Condition

Todd Williams Nov. 21, 2023 #Hypertension
enlarged spleen treatment


The spleen, a crucial organ in the human body's immune and circulatory systems, plays a vital role in filtering and monitoring blood, as well as supporting the body's defense mechanisms. However, an enlarged spleen, also known as splenomegaly, can indicate an underlying health issue.

In this comprehensive guide, we will define the spleen, elucidate its importance, explore the causes and symptoms of an enlarged spleen and discuss the various treatment options available for individuals experiencing this condition.

Defining the Spleen and Its Importance

The spleen is a fist-sized organ located beneath the ribcage on the left side of the abdomen. It is part of the lymphatic system, which is responsible for maintaining fluid balance and producing immune cells. The spleen serves several crucial functions in the body, including:

Blood Filtration:

The spleen acts as a blood filter, removing old or damaged red blood cells from circulation. It also helps to recycle iron from hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying protein in red blood cells.

Immune Response:

As a key component of the immune system, the spleen plays a role in detecting and responding to infections. It contains white blood cells (lymphocytes) and helps initiate immune responses by producing antibodies and activating immune cells when needed.

Storage of Blood Cells:

The spleen can store platelets and a reserve of blood. During periods of increased demand, such as in cases of bleeding or trauma, the spleen releases stored blood cells into circulation.

While the spleen performs essential functions, an enlarged spleen can indicate an underlying health issue that requires investigation and management.

Causes of Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly)

Enlarged spleen, or splenomegaly, can result from various underlying conditions. Identifying the cause is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment approach. Common causes of an enlarged spleen include:


Viral Infections: Certain viral infections, such as mononucleosis (caused by the Epstein-Barr virus), cytomegalovirus (CMV), or HIV, can lead to splenomegaly.

Bacterial Infections: Bacterial infections, including endocarditis (infection of the heart valves), brucellosis, and certain types of pneumonia, may also contribute to an enlarged spleen.

Liver Diseases:

Chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis, can cause increased pressure in the veins connected to the spleen (portal hypertension), leading to splenomegaly.

Blood Disorders:

Various blood disorders can contribute to splenomegaly. Examples include:

Hemolytic Anemias: Conditions where red blood cells are destroyed more rapidly than the body can replace them.

Myeloproliferative Disorders: Abnormalities in the production of blood cells, such as leukemia or myelofibrosis.

Inflammatory Conditions:

Chronic inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, may cause an enlarged spleen as part of the body's immune response.

Metabolic Disorders:

Metabolic disorders, such as Gaucher's disease or Niemann-Pick disease, can lead to the accumulation of substances in the spleen, causing enlargement.

Certain Cancers:

Certain cancers, particularly lymphomas or cancers involving the blood, may result in splenomegaly.


Injury or trauma to the spleen, such as a ruptured spleen from a blunt abdominal injury, can cause swelling.


Conditions that cause congestion in the veins leading to the spleen, such as congestive heart failure, can contribute to splenomegaly.

Symptoms of Enlarged Spleen

The symptoms of an enlarged spleen can vary depending on the underlying cause and the extent of splenomegaly. Common symptoms may include:

Pain or Discomfort:

Some individuals may experience pain or discomfort in the upper left side of the abdomen, especially when pressure is applied.

Feeling of Fullness:

A sensation of fullness or bloating in the abdomen may occur due to the enlarged spleen pressing against nearby organs.


Enlarged spleen can contribute to anemia and fatigue, especially if the spleen is actively destroying red blood cells.

Easy Bleeding or Bruising:

A compromised spleen may lead to a decrease in platelets, increasing the risk of easy bleeding or bruising.

Frequent Infections:

An enlarged spleen may impair the immune system's function, leading to an increased susceptibility to infections.

Pale Skin:

Anemia resulting from an enlarged spleen may cause paleness of the skin.

Joint Pain:

In some cases, individuals with splenomegaly may experience joint pain, particularly in conditions associated with inflammatory responses.

It's essential to note that some individuals with an enlarged spleen may not experience noticeable symptoms. In such cases, the condition may be discovered incidentally during a routine physical examination or medical imaging.

Treatment Options for Enlarged Spleen

The treatment of an enlarged spleen focuses on addressing the underlying cause and managing symptoms. The choice of treatment depends on factors such as the severity of splenomegaly, the presence of symptoms, and the specific underlying condition. Treatment options may include:


In cases where the enlarged spleen is mild and asymptomatic, a healthcare provider may recommend a watch-and-wait approach. Regular monitoring through physical examinations and imaging may be sufficient.


Medications may be prescribed to address the underlying cause or manage specific symptoms. For example:

Antibiotics: If the cause is an infection, antibiotics may be prescribed.

Anti-inflammatory Drugs: In cases of inflammatory conditions, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or corticosteroids may be recommended.

Medications for Underlying Disorders: Treatment for underlying blood disorders or liver diseases may involve specific medications to manage the condition.


In severe cases of splenomegaly or when other treatments are ineffective, a splenectomy (surgical removal of the spleen) may be considered. Splenectomy is usually reserved for specific conditions or situations, as the spleen plays a crucial role in the immune system.

Management of Underlying Conditions:

Addressing and managing the underlying cause of splenomegaly is essential for long-term treatment success. This may involve specialized care for liver diseases, blood disorders, or infections.

Lifestyle Modifications:

Making lifestyle changes, such as maintaining a healthy diet, engaging in regular exercise, and avoiding activities that may increase the risk of spleen injury, can contribute to overall well-being.

Precautions and Considerations

Follow-Up Care:

Individuals with an enlarged spleen should undergo regular follow-up care to monitor the spleen's size and assess overall health. This is especially important when the underlying cause is chronic or requires ongoing management.


Since the spleen plays a role in immune function, individuals without a spleen (due to splenectomy) or with a compromised spleen function should follow vaccination recommendations to reduce the risk of infections.

Emergency Care:

In cases of trauma or injury, individuals with an enlarged spleen should seek immediate medical attention, as trauma to the spleen can lead to rupture and life-threatening bleeding.

Communication with Healthcare Providers:

Open communication with healthcare providers is crucial for understanding the underlying cause of splenomegaly and developing an appropriate treatment plan. Individuals should report any changes in symptoms or concerns promptly.

Education and Awareness:

Educating individuals with an enlarged spleen about their condition, including potential complications and the importance of medical follow-up, is essential for proactive management.


An enlarged spleen, or splenomegaly, can signal an underlying health issue and requires thorough evaluation and management. Understanding the importance of the spleen in blood filtration, immune response, and overall well-being emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to care.

By identifying and addressing the underlying cause of splenomegaly, healthcare providers can tailor treatment plans to the individual's specific needs. Whether through medications, splenectomy, or lifestyle modifications, the goal is to alleviate symptoms, reduce the risk of complications, and enhance the overall quality of life for individuals with an enlarged spleen. Ongoing research and medical advancements contribute to our understanding of splenomegaly, fostering improved treatment strategies and support for those affected by this condition.