What causes and how to treat an enlarged spleen?

Symptom Database

An enlarged spleen, also known as splenomegaly, is a condition that occurs when the spleen becomes larger than its normal size. The spleen is an important organ located in the upper left side of the abdomen, just below the rib cage. It plays a crucial role in the immune system, filtering the blood and removing old or damaged red blood cells. While a slight enlargement of the spleen is usually not a cause for concern, a significantly enlarged spleen can indicate an underlying health issue that requires medical attention.

Causes of Enlarged Spleen

There are several potential causes of spleen enlargement, including:

  • Infections: Certain infections, such as mononucleosis, bacterial infections, and parasitic infections, can lead to spleen enlargement.
  • Liver diseases: Liver conditions like cirrhosis, hepatitis, and liver congestion can cause the spleen to enlarge.
  • Blood disorders: Conditions like leukemia, lymphoma, and myelofibrosis can result in an enlarged spleen.
  • Inflammatory diseases: Autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and sarcoidosis can contribute to spleen enlargement.
  • Metabolic disorders: Certain metabolic disorders, such as Gaucher’s disease and Niemann-Pick disease, can cause the spleen to enlarge.
  • Trauma: In some cases, trauma to the abdomen can lead to spleen enlargement.

Symptoms of Enlarged Spleen

While an enlarged spleen may not always cause noticeable symptoms, some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Pain or discomfort in the upper left side of the abdomen, which may radiate to the shoulder.
  • Feeling full without eating much.
  • Easily getting full or bloated.
  • Fatigue or weakness.
  • Unexplained weight loss.
  • Frequent infections.
  • Easy bleeding or bruising.

If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Treatment for Enlarged Spleen

The treatment for an enlarged spleen depends on the underlying cause and the severity of the condition. In some cases, no specific treatment may be necessary, and the focus may be on managing the underlying condition. However, if the spleen becomes significantly enlarged or causes complications, treatment options may include:


Medications may be prescribed to address the underlying cause of spleen enlargement. For example, if an infection is the cause, antibiotics or antiviral medications may be prescribed. In cases of autoimmune disorders, immunosuppressive drugs may be used to reduce inflammation and prevent further enlargement of the spleen.


In certain situations, surgical intervention may be required. A splenectomy, which is the surgical removal of the spleen, may be recommended if the spleen is severely enlarged, causing significant pain, or if it is at risk of rupturing. However, removing the spleen can increase the risk of infections, so it is important to discuss the potential benefits and risks with a healthcare professional.

Lifestyle Changes

Adopting certain lifestyle changes can help manage an enlarged spleen and reduce the risk of complications. These may include:

  • Avoiding contact sports or activities that may increase the risk of abdominal trauma.
  • Eating a healthy diet to support overall immune system function.
  • Practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of infections.
  • Getting vaccinated against certain infections, such as influenza and pneumonia.

It is important to note that self-diagnosis and self-treatment are not recommended for spleen enlargement. Only a healthcare professional can accurately diagnose the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatment options.

In conclusion, an enlarged spleen can be caused by various factors, including infections, liver diseases, blood disorders, inflammatory diseases, metabolic disorders, and trauma. While some individuals may not experience any symptoms, others may experience pain, fullness, fatigue, weight loss, and increased susceptibility to infections. Treatment options depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition and may include medications, surgery, and lifestyle changes. If you suspect you have an enlarged spleen, it is crucial to seek medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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