Spleen pain can cause severe discomfort. A spleen is one of the largest organs in your lymphatic system. The organ has high significance due to its ability to keep your bodily fluids balanced. But, it is possible to live without the organ. You can experience the pain in the organ organs due to any number of conditions. It ranges from infections, blood diseases, rupturing of the organ, enlarged spleen or problems with the lymph system. What to know in detail the problems triggering pain in the organ and how to manage it? Then, read ahead.
What Is A Spleen?
Before knowing about the pain in the spleen, you need to know about the organ itself. A spleen is the small, fist-sized organ that sits under your ribcage. It is located in the upper left quadrant of your abdomen, above your stomach. The exact location of the spleen is, between the ninth and eleventh ribs. It is a soft organ with a purple color to it and weight around 7 oz. The spleen has two types of tissues. It has red pulp tissue, which filters your blood. The red pulp is also responsible for getting rid of the damaged or old red blood cells. While the white pulp tissue in the spleen has immune cells. The T cells and B cells present in the white pulp tissue helps your immune system to fight against infections.
The main function of your spleen is to act as a good blood filter. So, the organ controls the amount of RBC (red blood cells) as well as the blood stored in your body. It can also detect any potentially dangerous virus, bacteria or any microorganisms in your blood and fight it off. Along with the lymph nodes, the spleen can create lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells) that produces antibodies. So, it helps kill the dangerous microorganism and prevent the spread of infection.
What Do You Mean By Spleen Pain?
Spleen pain refers to the pain or agony you can feel in the left upper quadrant of your abdomen. It can radiate to neighboring parts including your abdomen. So, you can feel severe discomfort and a feeling of fullness in the area. The problem can occur due to any number of reasons. You need to get assistance from your doctor to detect the actual cause of the problem. It will help you get relief from pain and avoid further complications.
Diagnosing Spleen Pain
When you experience pain in the upper quadrant of your abdomen, it can signify an underlying health problem. In such cases, you need to see a doctor immediately. Your doctor can perform several tests to detect the actual problem conclusively. So, you need to undergo the following tests to find the exact cause of spleen pain:
Your doctor mostly detects the underlying problem during a physical examination. The origin of the pain is easy to detect when your doctor gently examines the left side of the upper abdomen. It is easy to detect the problem with physical examination on a slender person. The lack of fat on the skin surface makes it easy to feel the normal sized spleen.
The problem with the spleen is also detected using blood tests. Any trauma or infection to the organ can increase the WBC (White Blood Cells). So, getting a complete blood count can detect the red blood cells (RBC), white blood cells (WBC), and platelets in your blood. It will help detect the problem easily.
The sophisticated imaging tests can provide a comprehensive view of your internal organs. The following tests can help detect the problem with the internal organs like spleen:
The abdominal ultrasound can detect the problems with your spleen. It can determine the size of the spleen and detect any abnormality in its size.
Computerized Tomography (CT) Scan
CT scans are the sophisticated x-rays images offering a cross-sectional view of the spleen. So, it can provide insight into the size of the spleen or other problems. It also detects if the spleen crowds the other organs and causes discomfort.
Magnetic resonance imaging uses powerful magnetic waves and sound waves to trace the blood flow through your spleen. So, it can detect any problem that interrupts the proper blood flow that leads to pain.
Causes Of Spleen Pain
Several underlying causes can trigger the pain in your spleen. Therefore, it is essential to know the exact reason for the pain. Your doctor can determine an effective treatment only after detecting the precise problem. The following problems can trigger pain and discomfort:
A ruptured spleen is also known as splenic rupture occurs when the protective covering of the organ breaks open. The condition is considered a medical emergency as it can trigger internal bleeding. The rupturing of the spleen can pour blood into your abdominal region. The bleeding intensity depends on the size of the rupture. Therefore, you need to seek medical attention as early as possible to avoid fatal complication.
Causes Of Ruptured Spleen
A spleen can rupture when you suffer blunt trauma or suffer a direct blow to the abdomen region. Your spleen is the frequently affected organ during an injury or trauma. So, the organ is at risk of getting ruptured. The problem can affect people irrespective of their age. Therefore, the common causes that lead to an injury or trauma to the spleen are:
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Injury during playing contact sports (hockey or football)
- Bicycle accidents (for example, falling into the handlebars of a bicycle)
- Domestic violence
Apart from injury or trauma, certain diseases can also cause spleen rupture. In such cases, the spleen can swell. It can lead to the capsule-like covering becoming thin. So, it makes your spleen more susceptible to injuries. The fragile organ can rupture when you experience a direct hit (like forceful tackle) to your abdomen region. So, the diseases that can put you at risk of the problem are:
- Infectious mononucleosis (at times, rupture spleen indicates the presence of the disease0
- Hemolytic Anemia
- Certain types of lymphoma
Symptoms Of A Ruptured Spleen
The main symptom of the ruptured spleen is severe pain. In most cases, people can suffer from severe agony. But, the severity can depend on the intensity of the spleen rupture. The severity of the rupture can also directly influence the location of the pain. The splenic rupture can lead to blood leaking out. So, you can feel pain in the following areas:
- The left side of your abdomen directly under the rib cage.
- You can also feel pain in your left shoulder. It is due to the fact that the nerves of your left side of the diaphragm and left shoulder originate from the same location. So, the rupture can irritate the nerves leading to pain.
Due to the internal bleeding caused by the ruptured spleen leads to a drop in your blood pressure. So, it can trigger additional signs like:
- Blurred vision
Treatment To Alleviate Rupture Spleen
Ruptured spleen needs immediate medical treatment to avoid fatal complications. You need emergency treatment to repair or remove the spleen. Your doctor opts for immediate surgery in the following cases:
- When your doctor suspects massive internal bleeding
- Suspected splenic rupture triggering unstable vital signs or low blood pressure
The treatment involves surgery to stop the bleeding immediately. Small tears are easy to handle without completely removing the spleen. So, your doctor can repair the tear. To stop the bleeding, the pressure is applied to the blood vessels of your spleen. As the blood clots, the bleeding will stop.
Arterial embolization is the procedure opted by your doctor that can save your spleen. It is the procedure that is performed immediately when you experience the pain. It is the safest option available to save your spleen.
The splenic infraction can trigger spleen pain. So, you can experience pain under your ribcage (on the left side). Splenic infarction refers to the rare condition resulting in the death of your spleen portion. The spleen necrotizes due to the problem with the blood supply. You can experience a compromise in blood supply due to arterial blockages or trauma.
Cause Of Splenic Infarction
The common factors leading to the splenic infarction are:
- Blood clot formation due to inherited clotting disorders (for example antiphospholipid syndrome, Factor V Leiden, thrombophilia, etc.)
- Cancerous presence (like a pancreas cancer)
- Blood diseases (like sickle cell anemia)
- Infections (such as malaria, infectious mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus infections, etc.)
Symptoms Of Splenic Infarction
The problem can trigger several signs in your body. So, visit your doctor when you observe the following:
- Pain in the left upper quadrant
- Diffuse abdominal pain
- Pain on your left shoulder
Treatment For Splenic Infarction
You have no specific treatment available for splenic infarct. Doctors treat the underlying conditions triggering the problem to provide you relief. In most cases, you need constant monitoring to ensure hemodynamic stability. It is provided by prescribing appropriate analgesia. You also need to get enough hydration (through IV) to get relief. Better management of the problem can minimize the risk associated with the problem and prevent it from affecting you in the future.
An enlarged spleen can trigger severe pain. When the organ increases in size, it filters red blood cells and abnormal cells. So, it leads to a reduction in the number of healthy cells in your bloodstream. The enlarged spleen is also known as splenomegaly can result in trapping of too many platelets. The excess blood cells, as well as platelets, can affect the normal functioning of the organ due to clogging. Ultimately, an enlarged spleen can result in complete damage or destruction of sectors of the organ. The enlarged spleen is a treatable condition. But, ignoring the problem can put you at risk of splenic rupture.
Causes Of Enlarged Spleen
Several health conditions can result in enlarged spleen. You may suffer from the problem due to several reasons including:
- Bacterial infections like the infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocarditis) or syphilis
- Viral infections like mononucleosis
- Parasitic infections like malaria
- Liver diseases like cirrhosis
- Different types of hemolytic anemia triggering early blood cells destruction
- Blood cancers like myeloproliferative neoplasms and leukemia
- Metabolic disorders such as Niemann-Pick disease and Gaucher’s disease
- Lymphomas like Hodgkin’s disease
- A blood clot in the spleen veins
- Pressure on the veins in your liver or spleen
Symptoms Associated With Enlarged Spleen
Most people may not suffer from any symptoms due to enlarged pain. But, as the condition progresses, it can trigger pain and discomfort. In most of the cases, your doctor detects the problem during routine physical examination. When you experience symptoms, it includes:
- Pain in your upper left abdomen, which can spread to your shoulder
- Feeling full without eating anything
- The tendency to bleed easily
Treatment To Cure Enlarged Spleen
In most cases, your doctor treats enlarged spleen by addressing the underlying health problem. So, the treatment option includes:
- Mild complications like infections are treated using antibiotics. The enlarged spleen triggering no severe signs is monitored carefully.
- Serious issues triggering spleen pain due to problems like ruptured spleen require immediate medical assistance. So, you need to undergo spleen removal surgery to prevent any severe complications.
Spleen cancer can trigger spleen pain. In rare cases, cancers originate in your spleen. But, lymphomas or the blood cancers occurring in your lymphatic system can lead to spleen cancers. In most cases, the lymphomas start in other areas of your body and then affect your spleen. Studies indicate that adult non-Hodgkin lymphoma can have a spleen stage. The spleen invasion can also occur with leukemia. It is the blood cancer, which originates in a person’s bone marrow. In some rare cases, stomach cancers can attack the spleen.
Symptoms Associated With Spleen Cancer
Most people never complain about any symptoms due to spleen cancer. But, some can observe signs like:
- The feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen
- Enlarged spleen
- Spleen pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Night Sweats
- High levels of lymphocytes in the blood
- The tendency to bruise easily
- Swelling around the abdomen region
- Poor appetite
- Frequent infections
Treatment For Spleen Cancer
The treatment depends on the type of cancer you suffer and the extent of its severity. Depending on how much it has spread, you can have treatment options like:
- Radiation therapy
- Spleen removal
Spleen Removal For Spleen Pain
In the treatment options suggested for overcoming spleen pain, you may have across the procedure to remove a section of the organ or completely several times. The spleen removal surgery known as a splenectomy saves you from fatal complications when you suffer from:
- Splenic rupture
- Spleen cancer
- Blood disorders
Two types of surgical procedures can remove your spleen. So, your doctor can opt either the laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgery or traditional (open) procedure. In most cases, the choice of the surgery method depends on the spleen size. For larger spleen size, your surgeon can opt for open splenectomy to avoid complications. Here are the details associated with each procedure:
- Laparoscopic Splenectomy
The procedure involves fewer incisions and ensures a speedy recovery. During the procedure, your surgeon makes four incisions in your abdomen. A thin tube with a video camera at one end is inserted into your abdomen through the incision. The video can provide images of the spleen, which the surgeon views on a monitor. Using special surgical tools inserted through the other three incisions to remove the spleen.
The method is not appropriate for everyone as ruptured spleen needs open splenectomy. The laparoscopic splenectomy is not advisable when the patient suffers from other complications or scar tissue from previous operations. Therefore, your doctor performs diagnostic tests to determine the right surgical option for your problem.
- Open Splenectomy
Your doctor can suggest open splenectomy for an enlarged spleen or splenic rupture. During the surgery, the doctor makes a large incision on the middle of your abdomen. It helps move aside the muscle as well as tissue to reveal the spleen. Finally, the doctors remove the spleen and close the incision.
Preventing Spleen Pain
To avoid pain triggering from the spleen, you need to maintain caution. Try to follow the steps suggested below to prevent the condition leading to pain and discomfort.
Avoid Contact Sports
You need to avoid a direct blow to your abdomen, which causes a splenic rupture. Therefore, stop playing contact sports like hockey, football or soccer. You also need to limit activities that can put your spleen in danger.
Talk to your doctor about the activities that you can perform without putting your spleen at risk. So, you can modify activities that will reduce the risk of splenic rupture.
Follow Safety Guidelines
You need to follow the safety guideline like wearing a seat belt while traveling in a car. It will help you avoid any direct injury or trauma to the spleen.
Reduce Infection Risk
You need to take all the vaccinations to avoid any health risk. The updated vaccinations can avoid any risk of infection that can affect your spleen. So, you need to take the following;
Annual flu shot
Pertussis and diphtheria booster every ten years
You can also consult with your doctor about the additional vaccinations that you can take. It will keep you protected by different types of illness.
You can include some physical exercises in your daily routine to increase blood circulation and prevent inflammation. It will help the lymphatic system to drain fluids properly and avoid spleen problems. So, regular workouts keep the fluid moving in all parts of your body. It will keep your spleen healthy.
You need to eat a nutritious diet to strengthen your lymphatic system and spleen. So, include food rich in anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals. It will help reduce damage due to free radicals. The diet can also lower your chances of suffering from inflammation. So, avoid certain types of foods that can add stress to your body. Stay away from processed foods, sugary foods and snacks, low-quality animal products, and refined vegetable oils.
Avoid Chronic Stress
Excess stress in your life can weaken your immune system. So, you can suffer from digestive problems, inflammation, and other problems. Chronic stress can also affect your lymphatic and digestive system. Therefore, it can lead to an enlarged spleen and increase the risk of splenic rupture. Try to include stress-relieving activities in your life to prevent spleen pain.
You can overcome spleen pain by addressing the root cause of the problem. Depending on the problem, you can reverse the issue with proper care and management. So, with medical care at the right time can save you from the adverse effects of the spleen problems.View Article Sources