Just like other organs, the spleen can get sick or hurt. If pain is felt under the left costal arch, spleen swelling caused by a bacterial or viral infection may be the cause. If the pain radiates into the left shoulder or the left side of the neck, it is possible that a splenic rupture is behind the discomfort. Such an injury can be caused, for example, by an accident. Learn more about typical diseases and injuries of the spleen.
What diseases can affect the spleen?
Possible diseases of the spleen are:
- swelling of the spleen
- ruptured spleen
- OPSI syndrome
- Autoimmune diseases
- Malformations of the red blood cells
Below we will introduce you to the diseases of the spleen.
swelling of the spleen
If the spleen swells strongly, it is called splenomegaly. The spleen can be palpated under the left costal arch when it swells to twice its normal weight - this spleen swelling can be quite painful. Spleen swelling is usually indicative of bacterial, viral or parasitic infections such as glandular fever, tuberculosis or malaria.
The increased activity of the immune system, which indeed wants to ward off the invaders, leads to spleen enlargement. Spleen swelling is common, it can also be caused by stasis (see below).
In addition, a leukemia, a malignant change in the white blood cells, a splenomegaly cause. In Gaucher disease, a fatty storage disease, fatty substances are not broken down because of a defective enzyme, but rather are deposited in the organs, for example in the spleen. The spleen can swell up to 20 times its normal size.
The action of great force, for example in an accident, or a broken rib can lead to a rupture in the spleen. Since the spleen is well supplied with blood, an injury quickly leads to high blood loss. In many cases, surgical hemostasis is the only possible therapy, sometimes the spleen must be completely removed (splenectomy) to stop the blood loss.
The so-called two-term splenic rupture is feared, in which the interior of the spleen tears first and the heavy bleeding then causes the spleen filled with blood to burst its capsule at some point.
Diseases of the liver, for example cirrhosis of the liver, or right heart failure change the blood circulation between the intestine and the liver, so-called portal hypertension can develop. Because the spleen is also turned on in this system, blood can back up into the spleen - causing enlargement of the spleen. This in turn leads to an increased reduction of red blood cells.
OPSI syndrome (overwhelming postsplenectomy infection)
In people with impaired spleen function or spleen, hypersensitivity to certain bacterial pathogens such as pneumococci (agents of inflammation of the lungs and meningitis) may occur. In rare cases, then infection with these bacteria leads to a particularly serious course of the disease with sepsis (blood poisoning) and high mortality rate. A timely vaccination can protect against it.
When our organism attacks its own constituents, it creates an autoimmune disease. The antibodies, known as autoantibodies, trigger a chronic inflammation there. In collagenoses such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the connective tissue is the target of the attack, including that of the spleen. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the autoantibodies above all destroy the cartilage and bone structures. But due to the faulty strong immune reaction of the body and internal organs such as the spleen are attacked and damaged.
Malformations of the red blood cells
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited malformation of the red blood pigment, in which the hemoglobin takes on a sickle-like form. At especially severe form (homozygous) only sickle cell hemoglobin is formed, at somewhat easier form (heterozygous) hemoglobin has in part also normal form. The sickle cell hemoglobin clogs small blood vessels and more easily gets stuck in the connective tissue network of the spleen, where it is broken down.
Thalassemia is also a hereditary disease in which the production of hemoglobin is disrupted. The red blood pigment binds less well oxygen, so the organs are poorly supplied with oxygen. Again, the deformed erythrocytes are easier stuck in the network of the spleen and are degraded there increasingly. In both diseases, in some cases, the spleen is surgically removed to prevent increased red blood cell depletion.
Rarely, both benign and malignant tumors form on the spleen. Metastases of malignant tumors sometimes also settle on the spleen.
How can I protect and support my spleen?
Because the spleen is part of the immune system, it can be indirectly supported with a balanced diet and any behavioral code that supports the body's defenses - however, there is no specific dietary or behavioral recommendation.
In the Middle Ages sulfur fumes were recommended for the cleansing of liver and spleen: Fortunately, this therapy is no longer "up to date". In traditional Chinese medicine, the spleen plays a major role in our well-being: it is the ruler of body fluids. Bitter substances that are contained in endive or chicory, for example, strengthen the spleen force.
To strengthen our immune system, which includes the spleen, Chinese dietetics recommends garlic, onion and fennel, radish and radish. In this way you can additionally do something for your health through a delicious meal.