Our spleens serve to filter our bloodstreams by spotting and disposing of red blood cells that are flawed in any way. A number of primary conditions can lead to the spleen growing enlarged (a condition also referred to as splenomegaly).
Because this condition is typically asymptomatic, physicians usually catch it by chance during a routine physical exam. Your physician may choose a secondary method such as a blood or imaging test to confirm a splenomegaly diagnosis should they notice your spleen is enlarged during a physical exam.
If you get diagnosed with splenomegaly, your treatment plan will depend on what the underlying cause is. The Mayo Clinic lists a variety of diseases and infections that could lead to an enlarged spleen:
- Parasitic infections, like malaria.
- Viral infections, including mononucleosis.
- Metabolic disorders, such as Niemann-Pick disease or Gaucher’s disease.
- Bacterial infections, including syphilis or endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart’s inner lining.
- Cirrhosis and other diseases that impact the liver.
- Certain liquid cancers, like leukemia or Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Pressure on certain veins in the liver or spleen; this includes a blood clot in these veins.
- Various types of hemolytic anemia; this condition is characterized by the premature destruction of red blood cells.
When the spleen is enlarged, it’s filtering both abnormal and normal red blood cells, thereby reducing the number of healthy blood cells in your bloodstream. Additionally, it’s holding on to too many platelets, which help clot the blood. As excess platelets and red blood cells build up within the spleen, it can become clogged, tampering with its normal functioning. An overgrown spleen could even eventually outgrow its own blood supply, leading to the damaging–or even destroying of–parts of the spleen itself.
Certain Ezra MRI scans could detect splenomegaly. You can learn more about our screening options at the following link.