Why does my spleen hurt

Spleen is an important organ of the lymphatic system. It is found on the left upper side of the abdomen, between the 9th and 12th rib. The primary function of the spleen is to produce lymphocytes and plasma cells, which are used in humoral and cellular immune defense. Approximately half of the body’s monocytes are stored in this organ. These cells can easily transform into macrophages and dendritic cells, and assist in wound repair.
Additionally, the spleen filters the blood and removes all the unwanted materials like cell debris and microorganisms as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Furthermore, it monitors the red blood cells, eliminating those that are abnormal, damaged or too old to function properly. It also serves as a storehouse for various elements of the blood like platelets and white blood cells. In the absence of the spleen, the body becomes susceptible to diseases caused by bacteria and protozoa, and responsiveness to certain vaccines also decreases.

Whenever the normal functioning of the body is hampered by disorders like cancer, anemia, malaria, tuberculosis, amyloidosis, cirrhosis, hepatitis and the like, the spleen becomes hyperactive, and starts entrapping and storing a large number of blood cells and platelets. As the result, the platelet and blood cell count in the bloodstream begins to fall dramatically. Due to entrapment, the spleen grows in size, and as it grows, it traps in more and more blood cells and platelets. Eventually the overgrown spleen starts capturing and destroying the normal blood cells together with the abnormal ones. These blood cells and platelets clog the spleen and interfere with its normal function.

The characteristic symptom of spleen enlargement is severe pain in the abdomen and back. At times, the pain shoots up to the left shoulder. This happens when certain parts of the spleen begin to bleed and die due to inadequate supply of blood. The enlarged spleen also starts pressing the stomach, which leads to the feeling of fullness after eating a small amount of food or even without eating anything. Furthermore, as too many blood cells and platelets have been removed from the bloodstream, the body’s immune response begins to dwindle, symptoms of anemia emerge, and normal blood clotting process is also slows down.

Enlarged and painful spleen is seldom removed surgically because this can lead to several complications like increased vulnerability to diseases, and so forth. In a majority of cases, the underlying cause of spleen enlargement is removed. Once, the disorder is cured the spleen contracts back to its original size, and the pain also subsides.