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Enlarged Spleen

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jan 5, 2023.

What is an enlarged spleen?

An enlarged spleen is also called splenomegaly. Your spleen is in your left upper abdomen, just below your ribs. Your spleen is part of your lymph system and helps fight infection. It also helps control the amount of blood cells that flow through your body.

Abdominal Organs

What causes an enlarged spleen?

  • Infection
  • Liver disease
  • Blood disease
  • Autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • Cancer

What are the signs and symptoms of an enlarged spleen?

You may not have any signs or symptoms. You may instead have any of the following:

  • Hiccups
  • Pain in the upper left side of your abdomen
  • Feeling full without eating or after eating a small amount
  • Tiredness
  • Easily bruising or bleeding
  • Frequent infections

How is an enlarged spleen diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms medical history. He or she may be able to feel your enlarged spleen. You may need any of the following tests:

  • Blood tests will show the number of red and white blood cells and platelets in your body. Blood tests will also show how well your liver is working.
  • An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI may show the enlarged spleen. You may be given contrast liquid to help the spleen show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.

How is an enlarged spleen treated?

Treatment depends on what is causing your enlarged spleen. For example, if a bacterial infection caused your enlarged spleen, you will receive antibiotics. If you have no symptoms and no cause, your provider may suggest watchful waiting. This means you return for another exam in 6 to 12 months or sooner if you develop symptoms. Surgery to remove the spleen may be needed if a cause cannot be found or your enlarged spleen is causing severe problems.

How can I manage my symptoms?

  • Avoid contact sports and limit activity as directed by your healthcare provider. This will help prevent an injury or rupture (tear) in your spleen.
  • Keep your annual vaccines current. This will help prevent infection and illness.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have severe pain in your left upper abdomen.
  • You have a fever, chills, and body aches.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

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