What is Splenomegaly: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What is Splenomegaly?

Splenomegaly is a pathological condition in which spleen of an individual gets enlarged. The spleen is an important organ of the body which is located just under the rib cage on the left side of the body. Splenomegaly can be caused due to various medical conditions like some sort of an infection or problems with the liver. Splenomegaly is largely asymptomatic and is often discovered during a physical examination to diagnose some other medical condition as it is tough to diagnose an enlarged spleen just by palpation in an average weight individual. In case if an enlarged spleen or Splenomegaly is suspected imaging studies and blood tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis and also identify as to the cause of it. Treatment for Splenomegaly depends on the underlying cause of the condition. In some acute cases of Splenomegaly, a surgical removal of the spleen may also be recommended but it is done in rare cases.

What is Splenomegaly?

What are the Causes of Splenomegaly?

Root cause of Splenomegaly is some sort of infection which affects the spleen which may lead to enlargement of the spleen. Some of the prominent causes of Splenomegaly are:

Infections: Viral Infections like mononucleosis are one of the major causes of Splenomegaly. Bacterial infections like syphilis or conditions like endocarditis which also can be caused by a bacterial infection can cause Splenomegaly. Malaria which is caused by mosquitoes and is a parasitic infection is also one of the causes of Splenomegaly.

Medical Conditions that Can Cause Splenomegaly: Medical condition like cirrhosis of the liver which is basically caused by alcohol abuse is also one of the leading causes of Splenomegaly. Anemia is also one of the causes of Splenomegaly. Serious conditions like leukemia or lymphomas are also one of the causes of Splenomegaly.

What are the Symptoms of Splenomegaly?

Splenomegaly is largely asymptomatic but in some cases it may cause some symptoms:

  • A sensation of fullness with some pain in the abdominal area on the left hand side which may radiate to the left shoulder as well
  • Early satiety with only being able to eat a minimal amount as a result of the enlarged spleen putting pressure on the stomach
  • Anemia
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Frequent infections
  • Easy bleeding.

How is Splenomegaly Diagnosed?

How is Splenomegaly Diagnosed?

Normally Splenomegaly is detected during a routine physical examination done for detection of some other medical condition. An enlarged spleen or Splenomegaly can be observed just by palpation of the left side of the abdominal area but this becomes difficult in patients who are overweight or morbidly obese. In case if Splenomegaly is not able to be confirmed on palpatory examination and is in the differential diagnosis then the physician may recommend the following tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Blood Tests: A CBC may be done to look at the RBC, WBC, and platelets in the blood
  • CT/MRI of the abdomen to look at the internal structures of the abdomen which can easily identify a Splenomegaly

How is Splenomegaly Treated?

The treatment for Splenomegaly depends on the underlying cause. In cases where a specific cause has been identified for Splenomegaly then treatment is focused on treating the underlying problem which in itself resolves the problem. Citing an example if a bacterial infection is the cause for the enlargement of the spleen then antibiotics to treat the infection is the way to go.

In cases where Splenomegaly has been identified incidentally and there is no specific cause identified then the physician may recommend watchful waiting approach and the patient will have to be followed diligently for about a year since the diagnosis for any changes in the size of the spleen or any new symptoms develop. In cases where an underlying cause of Splenomegaly is not able to be identified and symptoms start getting worse to the level that starts to complicate things then surgical removal of the spleen or what in medical terms is called as splenectomy is the route taken by the physicians. This may also be done electively to prevent complications but it requires a lot of caution. Removing the spleen does not affect a daily life of an individual but it can result in serious complications and potentially life threatening ones, so one needs to show caution when opting for splenectomy due to Splenomegaly.

What are Some of the Home Remedies Suggested for Splenomegaly?

Individuals having enlarged spleen can include the following in their daily routine activities to avoid complications from Splenomegaly:

Avoid Contact Sports: Individuals with Splenomegaly need to avoid contact sports to a maximum so that they do not have a chance of getting hit in the abdominal area, especially in sports like football and rugby where the chances of getting hit and injured are very high.

Restrained Driving: It is also important for individuals with Splenomegaly to be restrained or seat belted while driving so as to prevent any injury to the spleen in cases of a motor vehicle accident.

Vaccinations: It is also important for individuals with Splenomegaly to be up to date with their vaccinations to keep infections at bay as they are at an increased risk for complications with infections due to Splenomegaly.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 22, 2019

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