What is the spleen and what causes an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)?
The spleen sits under your rib cage in the upper left part of your abdomen toward your back. It is an organ that is part of the lymph system and works as a drainage network that defends your body against infection.
The classic symptoms of appendicitis include:
Dull pain near the navel or the upper or lower abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen; this is usually the first sign, but it only occurs in half of appendicitis cases.
Loss of appetite
Nausea or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins
Temperature of 99 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit
Constipation or diarrhea with gas
Inability to pass gas
In many cases, atypical symptoms appear, inc...
White blood cells produced in the spleen engulf bacteria, dead tissue, and foreign matter, removing them from the blood as blood passes through it. The spleen also maintains healthy red and white blood cells and platelets; platelets help your blood clot. The spleen filters blood, removing abnormal blood cells from the bloodstream.
A spleen is normally about the size of your fist. A doctor usually can't feel it during an exam. But diseases can cause it to swell and become many times its normal size. Because the spleen is involved in many functions, many conditions may affect it.
An enlarged spleen is not always a sign of a problem. When a spleen becomes enlarged, though, it often means it has been doing its job but has become overactive. For example, sometimes the spleen is overactive in removing and destroying blood cells. This is called hypersplenism. It can happen for many reasons, including problems with too many platelets and other disorders of the blood.
Causes of an Enlarged Spleen
An enlarged spleen can be caused by infections, cirrhosis and other liver diseases, blood diseases characterized by abnormal blood cells, problems with the lymph system, or other conditions.
Here are some common causes of an enlarged spleen:
Viral infections, such as mononucleosis
Parasitic infections, such as toxoplasmosis
Bacterial infections, such as endocarditis (an infection of your heart's valves)