Don’t be Mean to your Spleen

spleenYour spleen is part of your lymphatic system and is a soft, spongy organ that is located under your rib cage on the left side of your abdomen. Although you can live without one, the spleen performs several critical jobs and can be easily damaged. Among other things, your spleen:

  • Filters out and destroys old and damaged blood cells
  • Plays a key role in preventing infection by producing white blood cells called lymphocytes and acting as a first line of defense against invading pathogens
  • Stores red blood cells and platelets, the cells that help your blood clot

The spleen is relatively easily damaged and can rupture from a blow to the abdomen like in a car accident, sporting injury, or a fight, for example. Without emergency treatment, a ruptured spleen can cause life-threatening internal bleeding.  Some ruptured spleens require emergency surgery.

Signs and symptoms of a ruptured spleen include:

  • Pain in the upper left portion of the abdomen
  • Tenderness when you touch the upper left portion of the abdomen
  • Lightheadedness
  • Confusion

Your spleen can also become enlarged from many different causes such as viruses like mononucleosis, infections from bacteria or parasites, hypersplenism, or cancer, among other things. An enlarged spleen affects its vital functions. For instance, as your spleen grows larger, it begins to filter normal red blood cells as well as abnormal ones, reducing the number of healthy cells in your bloodstream. It also traps too many platelets. Eventually, excess red blood cells and platelets can clog your spleen, interfering with its normal functioning. An enlarged spleen may even outgrow its own blood supply, which can damage or destroy sections of the organ.

If you have any of the symptoms above or have been diagnosed with a spleen disorder, contact Dr. Johnson for a consultation.

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