Splenomegaly: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Risk Factors, Complications and Recommendations

It is a condition that occurs when the spleen enlarges.

Splenomegaly is also commonly known as spleen enlargement . The spleen is part of the lymphatic system and helps the immune system by storing white blood cells and helping in the creation of antibodies.

The spleen is on the left side of your body, below your rib cage. Is responsible for:

  • Filter bacteria coated with antibodies.
  • Reprocessing old red blood cells.
  • Recycle iron in hemoglobin.

Your spleen is extremely important in your body’s fight against infection because it is the source of two types of white blood cells, B cells and T cells. White blood cells protect your body from bacteria and infections.

The spleen is usually about the size of a fist, but when enlarged, it can become much larger.

Causes of splenomegaly

Splenomegaly can be caused by a series of diseases and conditions. Infections, such as mononucleosis, are among the most common causes of splenomegaly.

Problems with your liver, such as cirrhosis and cystic fibrosis, can also cause an enlarged spleen.

Another possible cause of splenomegaly is juvenile rheumatoid arthritis . This condition can cause inflammation of the lymphatic system . Because the spleen is part of the lymphatic system, this inflammation can cause the spleen to enlarge.

Other possible causes of an enlarged spleen include:

  • Malaria.
  • Hodgkin’s disease .
  • Leukemia.
  • Heart failure.
  • Tumors in the spleen or other organs that have spread to the spleen.
  • Viral, bacterial or parasitic infections.
  • Inflammatory diseases, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Sickle cell disease


Some people with enlarged spleen do not experience symptoms and the condition is only discovered during a routine physical examination. If you are very thin, you may feel an enlarged spleen through the skin.

A common symptom of splenomegaly is a sensation of pain or discomfort in the upper left part of the abdomen where the spleen is located.

You may also experience a feeling of fullness after eating only a small amount. This usually occurs when the spleen enlarges to the point that it presses on the stomach.

If your spleen starts to press on other organs, it may begin to affect the flow of blood to the spleen. This could cause your spleen to not filter your blood properly.

If your spleen becomes too large, you can begin to eliminate too many red blood cells from your blood. Not having enough red blood cells can cause a condition called anemia.

If your spleen can not create enough white blood cells as a result of its enlargement, you may also experience infections more often.

Treatment for splenomegaly

To treat your enlarged spleen, your doctor will have to treat the underlying cause. If the cause of an enlarged spleen is an infection, your doctor may or may not prescribe antibiotics depending on the organism causing the infection.

If the infection that causes an enlarged spleen is caused by bacteria, antibiotics can help. If a virus caused its infection, as is the case with mononucleosis, antibiotics would not help.

In severe cases, your doctor may suggest that you have your spleen removed, called a splenectomy . It is completely possible to live a normal and healthy life after your spleen is removed.

Your risk of developing infections throughout your life may increase. But it can reduce the risk of getting infections by getting the appropriate vaccines.


If you have splenomegaly, it is important to find ways to prevent damage to your spleen enlargement. When your spleen is enlarged, you have a greater risk of rupture. A ruptured spleen can cause heavy internal bleeding that can be life-threatening.

Avoid playing contact sports, such as football or hockey, and be sure to wear a seat belt when in a car. If you have an accident, your seatbelt will help protect your organs, including the spleen, and reduce the chances of trauma to your organs.

With the treatment of the underlying cause of your enlarged spleen, you can continue with a normal and healthy life.

Risk factor’s

Anyone can develop splenomegaly at any age, but certain groups are at greater risk:

  • Children and young adults with infections, such as mononucleosis.
  • People who have Gaucher disease, Niemann-Pick disease and several other hereditary metabolic disorders that affect the liver and spleen.
  • People who live or travel to areas where malaria is common.

Complications of splenomegaly

Possible complications of an enlarged spleen include:

  • Infection: Splenomegaly can reduce the number of red blood cells, platelets, and healthy white blood cells in the bloodstream, resulting in infections.
  • A possible anemia and increased bleeding.
  • Spleen rupture: even healthy spleens are soft and easily damaged, especially in automobile crashes. The possibility of rupture increases when the spleen is enlarged.


If you experience the symptoms of an enlarged spleen, it is important that you make an appointment with your doctor. If you feel pain in the upper left side of your abdomen that is severe or if the pain gets worse when you breathe, consult your doctor as soon as possible.