The spleen is an organ located in the upper left part of the abdomen, just below the diaphragm. It is part of the lymphatic system and plays an important role in the immune system by filtering and removing old, damaged, or abnormal red blood cells, as well as pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
The spleen is also involved in the production of white blood cells, which help to fight infection and disease, and stores blood cells and platelets that can be released into circulation as needed.
The spleen is composed of two main types of tissue: white pulp and red pulp. The white pulp is responsible for producing and storing white blood cells and is involved in the immune response. The red pulp filters the blood and removes old or damaged red blood cells.
The spleen can be affected by a number of conditions, including infections, autoimmune disorders, and certain cancers. Some conditions can cause the spleen to enlarge, which can lead to symptoms such as abdominal pain, fatigue, and anemia. In severe cases, an enlarged spleen can cause complications such as rupture, which is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
In some cases, the spleen may need to be removed, or splenectomy, due to injury or disease. After splenectomy, other organs in the body, such as the liver and lymph nodes, take over the spleen’s filtering and immune functions. However, people who have had their spleen removed are at increased risk of certain infections and may need to take precautions, such as receiving vaccinations and taking antibiotics, to reduce this risk.