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Spleen Disorders - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment
Written By : Dr. James Pendergraft 
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Spleen is a vital organ found in the left upper quadrant of the human body which plays a central role in the immune system. Not only is it a reservoir of blood reserve, which the body keeps in case of an emergency such as bleeding or hemorrhage. It performs the vital function of removing old red blood cells, but it also works like a factory for antibodies which can help maintain the defense mechanism of the body against various health threats.

There are two major spleen disorders:

· Splenomegaly
· Asplenia

Splenomegaly

This is a disorder in which the spleen is enlarged. The normal spleen size is up to 12 cm, and anything larger than that is classified as Splenomegaly. Splenomegaly could be moderate, within a range of 11 to 20 cm, or severe, more than 20 cm. The condition should not be confused with Hypersplenism, which is the over-activity of the spleen.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Splenomegaly include chest pain, back pain and abdominal pain. When the spleen grows considerably in size, an apparent mass in the upper left quadrant of the back can be felt on physical examination. The symptoms of anemia could be observed if the condition also accompanies cytopenia.

Causes

A number of conditions can cause that pathology. Mostly, this condition is caused by a number of other underlying diseases. The diseases that could possibly cause Splenomegaly include removal of defective RBC, various types of anemia, immune hyperplasia, bacterial or fungal infections, organ failure and metabolic disease are among other such factors.

Treatment

In many cases, Splenomegaly is accompanied with other diseases, so the treatment is administered in relation to that. However, as the condition involves a great risk of bacterial infections, antibiotics are administered except in the case of the formation of an abscess in the spleen. Chemotherapy is a preferable treatment, but surgery could be required for its treatment as well. Medicines administered in this condition help avoid deaths and complications.

Asplenia

Asplenia, meaning "absence of spleen", is a serious spleen disorder, in which either the organ is absent or fails to perform its vital functions. This leads to reduced immunity and increased risk of infection. It should not be confused with another condition Hyposplenia, which is the reduced function of the spleen.

Symptoms

Digestive tract disorders like malrotation of intestines. Complications in the shape and location of the heart, the occurrence of three lobes in the liver instead of two could also be among the symptoms.

Causes

The causes of Asplenia could either be genetic or acquired. However, the cases of its occurrence due to genetic reasons are very rare. Trauma causing damage to the spleen can cause this condition. Furthermore, sometimes a preexisting condition causes the spleen to lose its functionality. Diseases like sickle cell anemia can lead to Asplenia, for example. Sometimes, the spleen loses its functionality despite of its apparently healthy presence in the body as well, a condition known as Functional Asplenia. Furthermore, the condition obviously occurs in the case of splenectomy, which is the partial or complete surgical removal of the spleen. This surgical procedure is sometimes performed when the presence of a spleen is actually making a particular medical condition worse and when physicians are left with little choice but to go for its removal.

Treatment

One of the treatment methods that are prescribed instantly on diagnosis for Asplenia is Antibiotic Prophylaxis. Antibiotics such as penicillin and erythromycin are used to prevent infections. The prolonged intake of antibiotics is particularly recommended in case of children undergoing splenectomy, for at least a year, with some physicians recommending it up to all the way into adulthood in the most complicated cases.

Asplenia is a major risk factor of splenectomy, so physicians keep in mind all the precautions to minimize the dangers. But first of all, surgeons try to ensure partial splenectomy as much as possible depending on the case and try to preserve its function. They administer preoperative vaccination to help restoring the function of the spleen as well.

The patients with symptoms of Asplenia should be checked for bacterial infections and measures are taken to immunize the patient through vaccines. Bacterial infection is a major complication risk for Asplenia victims.

 
 
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