Enlarged Spleen - Cause

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What are the causes of an enlarged spleen?

The spleen will enlarge when it performs more of its duties to filter blood or to manufacture blood cells. Therefore, any disease or condition that damages red blood cells, and requires them to be filtered and removed from the blood stream, will cause the spleen to become larger.

Blood disorders

Conditions such as hemolytic anemia, where red blood cells are damaged and broken down (hemolyzed) can cause the spleen to enlarge. Misshapen red blood cells, like those produced in sickle cell anemia, thalassemia, and spherocytosis; may not be able to maneuver through small capillary blood vessels and then become damaged. The damaged cells need to be culled and filtered by the spleen.

Decreased blood flow

The spleen will enlarge if there is a decrease in blood flow through the splenic vein. This may cause spleen congestion and enlargement. This situation may be associated with liver disease and portal hypertension. Damage to liver cells makes it difficult for blood to flow normally, and as blood backs up in the portal vein system, it may also affect pressure in the splenic vein. This increased pressure decreases blood draining from the spleen and causes it to become congested and larger. People with congestive heart failure may have an enlarged liver and spleen because of poor blood flow to and from the heart.

Cancer

Leukemia and lymphoma may be associated with abnormal white cells that can invade the spleen and increase its size.

Metabolic diseases

Certain metabolic diseases may cause the spleen to enlarge, including Hurler Syndrome, Gaucher Disease and Niemann-Pick Disease.

Infection

Some viral infections may cause splenomegaly including:

  • Infectious mononucleosis caused by the Epstein-Barr virus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Malaria
  • Tuberculosis
  • Anaplasmosis
Picture of the spleen
Picture of the spleen
Return to Enlarged Spleen (Splenomegaly)

See what others are saying

Comment from: Mr. K, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: April 07

Crohn's disease, Type 2 Diabetic, Liver Transplant recipient, appendix and Gall Bladder removed. Enlarge Spleen, anemic, loss of appetite resulting in 30 pound loss in the last 2 months. Occasional night Sweats.

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Comment from: Toy Story, 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: April 07

I have portal hypertension and an enlarged spleen due to treatment for cancer when I was young. I have low counts on all my blood results. It makes me feel tired, I am prone to infection, and feel generally unwell.

Was this comment helpful?Yes

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