Bloating from an Enlarged Spleen
Last updated: July 2020
The spleen is a purple colored organ that sits on your left side, under the rib cage. It’s usually about 4 to 8 inches long and is shaped like a fist. A person who has hep C, and is living with liver inflammation, may have an enlarged spleen. If you are bloated from an enlarged spleen, it can cause discomfort.
The role of the spleen
Working side by side with your liver, the spleen has multiple roles. One is to act as a filter. Another is for storing any worn out red blood cells and white blood cells. It’s a warehouse for blood, and also works to detect immune problems. The spleen even acts as a storehouse for immune cells: Sometimes called killer T cells and B cells, they move into action when bacteria or inflammation is in your body.
If you are fighting hep C, the red blood cells may become wounded and lose their shape. Seriously. The spleen takes them in and tries to recycle them, along with your platelets and white blood cells.
Causes of spleen trouble
When your red blood cells are not healthy, they get hung up in your spleen. Because they are out of shape, they won’t flow through the spleen easily. Your spleen goes to work, eventually breaking them all down. Then your spleen pulls out iron, and passes it onto your bone marrow to build strength.
Your spleen also warehouses blood. Picture a big sign on the spleen saying “In Case of Emergency” and you know that your spleen will release lots of blood into your body in an instant. It can affect your platelets also. If you have thrombocytopenia, talk to your doctor about getting your liver calmed down with Hep C treatment.
During a regular ultrasound, the technician takes exact measurements of your spleen, liver, and your portal vein area. Their report will show exactly how big your spleen is. I remember when mine went down a couple of inches within a year after getting rid of hepatitis. It was an exciting day for me!
Doctors don't have a cure for bloating from a swollen spleen. They will try to help cure the cause of the liver disease.
Even though the bloating isn’t really harmful, it can cause discomfort. Much like the liver, the spleen supposedly cannot feel pain. It has a protective sac surrounding it. However, it can press upon other organs, or your ribs, causing tenderness in your tummy area. It’s no wonder that you feel pain when your spleen or liver is swollen.
Swollen spleens and hep C
When you get rid of the Hep C virus, your whole body can gradually return to a healthier state. My spleen size went from over 11 inches down to about 9. When I got my liver transplant, my spleen looked so good that the surgeons chose to leave it there.
While you’re healing from cirrhosis, or after hep C treatment, be patient with your body. Some of the old feelings of pain and swelling may still be there for a while. Watch for signs that they are getting better. Looking at your blood lab and ultrasound records can help to cheer you up. When your red blood count, white blood count, and platelet count all have a chance to get better, your spleen can heal too.