Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly)

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What is the spleen, and what is its function?

The spleen is an important organ in the body that has a variety of responsibilities.

  • It is a major filter of blood, helping remove old and damaged red blood cells, and bacteria.
  • It also part of the lymphatic system and produces lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that is part of the immune system that helps prevent and fight infection.
  • The spleen also acts as a reservoir for red blood cells and platelets, should the body need them.

What does the spleen look like, and where is it located in the body?

The spleen is located in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen, just beneath the diaphragm and next to the stomach. It has a very rich blood supply since it is responsible for filtering blood, and it is protected by the 9th, 10th, and 11th ribs. Normally, it is the size of an orange or a small fist.

The spleen has two types of tissue; the red pulp is responsible for filtering blood, while the white pulp is responsible for its immune function.

Picture of the spleen
Picture of the spleen
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2014

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Enlarged Spleen Symptoms

Feeling an enlarged mass in the left, upper part of the abdomen is a sign the spleen is enlarged.

Symptoms you may experience with an enlarged spleen include:

  • feeling full without eating a large meal,
  • pressure or pain in the left upper part of your abdomen (near the stomach),
  • or pain your left shoulder blade or shoulder area when taking a deep breath.

An enlarged spleen is often due to other diseases, so you may have accompanying symptoms such as:

  • fatigue,
  • nausea,
  • weakness,
  • weight loss,
  • bleeding or bruising,
  • jaundice, or
  • anemia.