If a patient suffers from splenomegaly, the spleen is abnormally enlarged. Therapeutic steps usually address the underlying disease.
What is splenomegaly?
In medicine, the term splenomegaly describes an enlargement of the spleen. Depending on the person affected, an enlarged spleen can affect the weight or the size of the organ. In a healthy person, the spleen has an average weight of 350 grams with average dimensions of 4 centimeters wide and 11 centimeters long.
As a rule, splenomegaly is not considered an independent disease – rather, the spleen enlargement occurs as a symptom of various possible clinical pictures. For definition of food poisoning in English, please visit acronymmonster.com.
Symptoms of splenomegaly depend, among other things, on the severity of an enlarged spleen and the causative disease; for example, splenomegaly can put pressure on adjacent organs, causing pain. Depending on the causative disease, splenomegaly is often accompanied by fever or joint problems.
There are many possible causes of splenomegaly. For example, acute or chronic infections such as malaria can result in splenomegaly. Various forms of leukemia (blood cancer) also lead to splenomegaly as they progress.
In addition, sarcomas (malignant tumors) or cysts (fluid-filled cavities in tissue) of the spleen can cause splenomegaly. Other underlying diseases that can promote splenomegaly include rheumatological or lymphatic (affecting the lymphatic system) diseases.
Anemia in the form of spherical cell anemia can also be associated with splenomegaly – spherical cell anemia is primarily characterized by a pathologically increased breakdown of red blood cells by the spleen. Finally, among the possible causes of splenomegaly that affect the spleen in an isolated manner, bruising (hematoma) or blood sponges (hemangiomas) of the organ should be mentioned.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
In addition to the symptoms caused by the swelling itself, the enlargement of the spleen is also accompanied by symptoms of the underlying disease. The large spleen causes a feeling of pressure under the left costal arch. Pain is also possible. If the organ is so swollen that the capsule surrounding it ruptures, extreme pain develops in the upper left abdomen, which can radiate to the shoulder.
In addition, there are complaints of the triggering underlying diseases. If there is an underlying infection, fever and general fatigue can occur. The lymph nodes are often swollen and the patients feel ill and weak. Cancer diseases can also cause the spleen to swell and cause various symptoms depending on where it originates.
If the digestive tract is affected, diarrhea can occur. If the liver is involved, jaundice may occur, as well as fever, loss of appetite, and weight loss. But excessive appetite is also possible. If the trigger is a blood formation disorder, anemia and night sweats can occur.
Patients have pale skin and feel powerless. Impeded drainage of the portal vein can also lead to an enlarged spleen. If the cause is cardiac insufficiency, this is noticeable in the form of shortness of breath, reduced performance, pulmonary edema or asthma. Due to the lack of oxygen, the skin and mucous membranes turn bluish, edema develops on the legs and fluid collects in the abdomen.
Diagnosis & History
The diagnosis of splenomegaly is usually first of all a physical examination by the diagnosing doctor – in contrast to a healthy spleen, an enlarged spleen in the context of splenomegaly can be palpated.
If a corresponding physical examination indicates an enlargement of the spleen, the exact extent of the splenomegaly can be determined using an ultrasound examination, for example. Since splenomegaly is often associated with an overactive spleen or an excessive breakdown of blood cells, a patient’s blood count is usually checked using a blood sample.
Depending on the underlying disease, which is hidden behind splenomegaly, the spleen enlargement can take an acute (temporary) or chronic (long-term) course. In the individual case, the course of splenomegaly depends primarily on successful therapy of the underlying disease.
Splenomegaly can cause gastrointestinal discomfort, fatigue, and general weakness. Serious complications arise when the disease is treated too late or inadequately. This can lead to subsequent symptoms such as chronic pain, infections and visual changes. Externally, splenomegaly in an advanced stage is shown by pallor, blue fingers and noticeable skin changes – aesthetic flaws that can further worsen the patient’s mental state.
Finally, secondary diseases occur that are associated with further complaints. A typical complication of splenomegaly is hypersplenism, i.e. an overactive function of the spleen. This can lead to a lack of cells and increase the tendency to bleed. When anemia occurs, the patient needs regular blood transfusions. If the spleen is removed, this has serious implications for the patient’s health.
Although regular vaccinations reduce the risk of infections, the body is still more susceptible to diseases. Some patients develop serious, potentially life-threatening infections months or years after their spleen is removed. Furthermore, thrombosis can occur in the weeks after the procedure. The prescribed medication can also cause side effects and interactions.
When should you go to the doctor?
In the case of splenomegaly, the affected person is dependent on a medical examination and treatment by a doctor. Since this disease cannot heal on its own, early diagnosis is also very important in order to prevent further complications. Therefore, a doctor should be consulted at the first sign of splenomegaly. A visit to the doctor is necessary if the person concerned suffers from severe pain in the left side of the upper abdomen.
In most cases, the pain occurs directly in the spleen. If this pain occurs permanently and above all without a particular reason, a doctor must be consulted. Symptoms such as diarrhea or fever can also indicate splenomegaly. Some sufferers also have a loss of appetite.
If these symptoms occur, either an internist or a general practitioner can be consulted. The further examination and treatment depends heavily on the exact symptoms of the splenomegaly and is carried out by a specialist. No general prediction can be made about the further course or life expectancy of the patient.
Treatment & Therapy
Successful treatment of splenomegaly usually encounters the individually causative underlying disease. If the disease that caused an enlarged spleen can be successfully cured or controlled, this usually also has a positive effect on the existing splenomegaly.
However, the causes of an enlarged spleen cannot always be treated medically and in some cases an enlarged spleen leads to further complications (such as progressive anemia). Therefore, in rare cases, surgical removal of the spleen (also known as splenectomy) may be medically necessary. Since the spleen takes over tasks of the immune defense within the human body, a splenectomy is usually associated with an increased risk of infection.
This risk mainly relates to infections caused by certain strains of bacteria. Patients with splenomegaly who are about to have their spleen removed receive a vaccination a few weeks before the planned procedure, which protects the organism from various pathogens. This protection against infection usually has to be renewed at regular intervals after a successful splenectomy.
Since splenomegaly is often the result of an underlying disease, there are only limited options for preventing spleen enlargement. As a rule, however, early diagnosis and therapy steps with regard to the causative disease can contribute to the regression of splenomegaly. If complete regression of splenomegaly cannot be achieved using conservative treatment methods, further progression of the spleen enlargement can usually be prevented.
In the case of splenomegaly, the options for follow-up care are usually significantly limited. In some rare cases, they are not even available to those affected, so that the patient should primarily carry out a quick diagnosis so that the disease can be treated quickly and early.
Splenomegaly cannot usually heal itself, so that without treatment by a doctor, in the worst case the affected person can die. In most cases, the symptoms can be relieved by taking various medications. It is always important to ensure the correct dosage and regular intake so that the treatment is correct.
If anything is unclear or you have any questions, you should first consult a doctor. Furthermore, the person concerned should protect themselves particularly well against various infections and diseases and not stay in high-risk areas. Vaccinations can also be very helpful and protect against such infections. Splenomegaly may limit the life expectancy of those affected. However, the further course cannot be generally predicted.
You can do that yourself
In everyday life, those affected can make sure to stimulate their blood circulation in a positive way. The consumption of foods that support blood production can be used in a targeted manner. The intake of nuts, pomegranates or legumes helps to support blood formation. At the same time, the consumption of harmful substances such as alcohol and nicotine should be avoided. These lead to a deterioration in health and can cause an increase in symptoms.
In the case of a fever, the daily consumption of liquids should be increased. The organism needs more nutrients during this time and should be supported by an optimal drinking supply. Although the symptoms of the disease are accompanied by a loss of appetite, an adequate amount of calories should be consumed daily. In order to gather new strength and to support the body’s own defense system, it is necessary to follow a healthy and balanced diet.
Splenomegaly is often caused by cancer. Emotional strength is needed to cope with this disease. The physical symptoms are unusually high and the confrontation with a reduced life expectancy can lead to psychological stress. Relaxation techniques should therefore be used to improve the way the patient deals with the disease. Many of those affected find the application of yoga or meditation to be very helpful.