Why Don’t Spleens Actually Have Vents?

August 30, 2007 at 8:50 pm 1 comment

It would really be helpful for those with the miserable condition known as splenomegaly, a condition in which one’s spleen dramatically increases in size. I have increasing pressure under my left ribcage, soreness in my sternum and left shoulder and suspect that I may be experiencing its initial symptoms.

What happens?
Basically, your spleen is a fist-sized organ under your left ribcage that processes blood. It removes impurities from your blood and creates white blood cells to help fight infections. When it malfunctions, it can do a couple of things. First, it can cause anemia by destroying too many red blood cells. Second, it can product too many white blood cells. These white infection-fighting cells either accumulate too quickly or don’t die when they are supposed to and keep accumulating in the spleen, thus greatly increasing its size. It can eventually press on neighboring organs, like the stomach and lungs. It can cause malaise, pain, a perpetual lack of hunger and if it really gets bad…it can burst. Bursting is really dangerous because you can develop internal bleeding that can kill you very quickly. If your spleen bursts, call 911 immediately!

Luckily, that rarely happens but you should take it seriously. And as my doctor says, “be aware but don’t worry until I tell you to worry.”

What does it mean?
Well, according to the literature I have read, approximately 30-45% of people with CVID have chronic splenomegaly. It’s fairly common. Most of the time it seems to be relatively benign…if you consider having The Blob living inside your abdomen benign. When it does have an identifiable cause, i.e., is not idiopathic, it is usually caused by an infection, viral, bacterial, fungal, whatever. If you can catch it, it can cause your immune system to freak out. A number of people are looking at various herpes viruses that seem to be strongly correlated with it. It can also be related to a systemic autoimmune response: if your body becomes allergic to itself, your spleen can produce the cells that attack you. Finally, it can mean you have a blood-based cancer, like lymphoma.

What can they do?
You only really have a few options. Generally, your doctor should try to determine if there is an underlying infection. If not, really bad cases may require the removal of the spleen. This is generally a last resort for people with CVID. The spleen is an integral part of the immune system and we are already have part of our immune system missing. Finally, if this condition is related to a blood-based cancer, they may choose to irradiate the spleen to shrink it and kill the cancerous cells.

I have a CT scan scheduled in two weeks. I’ll let you all know the verdict.


Entry filed under: autoimmune disease, Common Variable Immunodeficiency(CVID), cvid, disease, immunodeficiency, medicine, splenomegaly, Uncategorized.

CVID-Related Clinical Trials Will My Kids Get CVID?

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Lee Meyer  |  June 1, 2009 at 4:56 pm

    I have an adult son who was diagnosed with CVID over a decade ago. Currently, he is hospitalized in an ICU Trauma Unit because his spleen is 6 times its normal size and has a tear in it. Have you known of anyone with CVID who has had this condition? Can the spleen repair itself when CVID is involved? Thank you. Sincerely, Lee Meyer


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