We know little of this essential organ for the proper functioning of our defenses. Only when an accident or an illness requires its removal we worry about the spleen and we discover the many functions that it performs in our organism.
The spleen is an organ formed by blood and cells, essentially lymphocytes, located in the abdomen, to the right of the stomach, under the ribs. Of pink color, it weighs, in normal state, between 100 and 250 grams, and in these cases it cannot be felt from the outside. However, when affected by an illness, it increases considerably in volume and weighs between 3 and 4 kilos, so that it becomes perceptible externally.
What does it do for you?
- The spleen contributes to the production of antibodies by the organism.
- Intervenes in the digestive process by participating in the absorption and transport of nutrients.
- It allows defense against certain infectious agents, such as pneumococcus, haemophilus and meningococcus (in children).
- The spleen is like a kind of filter in the bloodstream.
- Helps transport water and body moisture.
- It participates in the production and maintenance of red blood cells and certain white blood cells.
- It is part of the lymphatic and immune systems.
Diseases That Attack You
- Viral, parasitic and bacterial infections
- Infectious mononucleosis
- Liver diseases such as cirrhosis, cystic fibrosis, etc
- Hemolytic anemias (thalassemia)
- Cancer (leukemia, lymphoma and Hodgkin’s disease)
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the smooth functioning of the spleen is manifested in the lips: pale, dull, brittle and withered lips manifest a deficiency in the functioning of the spleen.
What Diseases Make it Grow
Numerous diseases can lead to spleen hypertrophy. This is the case of certain parasitic infections (malaria, leishmaniasis, and bilharziosis), liver diseases (cirrhosis caused by alcohol or hepatitis), malignant blood diseases (lymphomas, leukemias) or benign (anemia due to destruction of the globules Red) or other diseases such as mononucleosis, infectious or AIDS.
On the other hand, in the event of a car accident, the spleen may burst as a result of a blow to the abdomen, and the risk of bleeding can be deadly. That is why, on many occasions, it is necessary to remove the spleen quickly.
When to remove?
In addition to accidents in certain diseases such as when it becomes very large and annoying the neighboring organs, especially the stomach, to the point, sometimes, to cause a thinning.
This is the case of spleen lymphomas, certain forms of thalassemias that affect children in certain countries, Gaucher’s disease (a genetic condition) and certain pathologies that lead to a drop in blood platelets.
How to live without a spleen
People who do not have a spleen become more sensitive to certain infections, especially meningococcal ones. There is also a greater risk of sepsis, pneumopathy and meningitis due to infectious peritonitis.
If you have had your spleen removed, inform each new doctor you consult, as your increased susceptibility to infections will require taking antibiotics at the least infection. On the other hand, adults should be vaccinated against pneumococcus and haemophilus, immediately after extirpation, and children from meningitis.
Who to consult
If the primary care physician suspects a problem related to this organ, the patient will be referred to a hepatologist (if associated with liver problems), a specialist in tropical diseases, if suspected of having an infection of that type, or a hematologist if Believes that there is some blood disease.
What happens if the spleen does not work well?
- Digestive disorders, asthenia, anorexia, etc
- Retention of fluids, edema, diarrhea
- Bleeding, heavy menses
- Exaggerated desire for sweets
- Lower our defenses.