Spleen pain is not a particularly common occurrence, but can sometimes occur when the spleen:
Severity of a spleen disorder can vary, from mild and easily treatable, to an emergency and a life-threatening situation.
Where The Spleen Is And What It Does - To better understand the underlying causes of spleen pain, it is worthwhile to first take a look at what the spleen is, where it is, and how it functions.
Your spleen is a heart-sized organ located in the left side of your abdomen. It lies just below the rib cage, and near the stomach. Though not a terribly large organ in its normal state, the spleen is made of spongy tissue and can hold up to 3 gallons of blood. Indeed, one of the spleen's functions is to act as a reservoir for blood. If, for whatever reason, blood is needed elsewhere in the body, the spleen will contract and force reserve blood into the blood stream. The spleen also acts as a storage area for blood platelets, again providing a supply from its reserves to the blood stream should a need arise.
The spleen is a part of our lymphatic system, and as such, helps to regulate the fluids in the body while also performing a filtering function. The spleen removes red and while blood cells which are no longer functioning properly, breaks them down, and discards them. In the process, the spleen removes the iron from these cells and returns it to the blood stream.
The spleen also does a bit of recycling together with its other tasks. Most importantly, the spleen protects us against infections occurring in the bloodstream. It does this by bringing the blood into contact with the spleen's lymphocytes, which create antibodies to destroy foreign germs and bacteria.
One would think that in performing all of these tasks, the spleen would be essential to life itself. Remarkably, as valuable as the spleen is in terms of these functions, it is not a vital organ. In the event a spleen needs to be removed, other bodily organs will take over the spleen's functions - maybe not as well, but for the most part, adequately. Without the spleen, however, we are more susceptible to infection.
One will feel spleen pain, of course, if the spleen is injured or ruptured. When this is the case, the only course of treatment is often removal of the spleen. Because of its spongy nature, the spleen does not lend itself to being repaired. Even an attempt to take a biopsy from the spleen's internal tissues can result in uncontrolled bleeding. Because it is such a soft organ and because of its location, the spleen is the internal organ which is most susceptible to injury and damage.
The Causes Of Spleen Pain - Spleen pain can also result from the spleen becoming enlarged. One normally will not feel spleen pain unless the enlargement is quite significant, and even then, the pain felt may be mistaken for back pain or stomach pain, as the enlarged spleen presses against other tissue and organs.
You may not even be aware of having an enlarged spleen, unless it is discovered in the course of a routine examination. Unlike a damaged or ruptured spleen, an enlarged spleen is often treatable. If you do feel spleen pain, it may be anything from a stitch felt in the side, to chronic pain, which affects your entire left side. Such pain often feels deep seated rather than seeming to be near the body's surface.
Hypersplenism - An enlarged spleen, also called hypersplenism, and any accompanying spleen pain is usually a symptom of something else in the body that has gone wrong. If the spleen enlarges too much however, it can damage itself, and tissue within the spleen, may start to die, which often is accompanied by spleen pain, sometimes felt in the area of the shoulder.
If the spleen enlarges because the spleen itself is diseased, it is called primary hypersplenism. The more common situation, secondary hypersplenism, is when there is an enlargement caused by something other than the spleen. If you are experiencing spleen pain, it can be for a wide variety of reasons.
Cirrhosis of the liver
and a host of other problems and diseases can cause the spleen to enlarge.
Mononucleosis is, in fact, a major cause of rupturing of the spleen. Whatever the underlying cause, the spleen is in effect working overtime to destroy large numbers of defective blood cells. Anemia often accompanies a situation in which the spleen is enlarging.