When you think of a ruptured spleen, the first thing that might come to mind is a sports injury. However, there are many different ways someone can suffer from a ruptured spleen, and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms so you can seek treatment as soon as possible. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about identifying a ruptured spleen and what to do if you think you may have one.
What is a Ruptured Spleen?
The spleen is an organ located in the upper left side of your abdomen, near your stomach. Its main function is to filter and remove worn-out red blood cells from your bloodstream. A ruptured spleen occurs when the spleen breaks open and spills blood into your abdomen. This can be caused by blunt force trauma, such as a car accident, a fall or a physical altercation, or by diseases that affect the spleen, such as mononucleosis or leukemia. A ruptured spleen is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention.
What are the Signs of a Ruptured Spleen?
1. Pain in the Left Side of Your Abdomen
The most common early symptom of a ruptured spleen is pain in the upper left side of your abdomen. This pain may be dull or sharp and can be aggravated by deep breaths, coughing or movement. The pain may also radiate to your left shoulder or back.
2. Nausea and Vomiting
Feeling sick to your stomach, vomiting, and a loss of appetite are common symptoms of a ruptured spleen. This occurs because of irritation and inflammation of the lining of the abdomen that occurs after a spleen injury.
3. Weakness and Dizziness
A ruptured spleen can cause a drop in blood pressure, which can lead to feelings of weakness and lightheadedness. This can also contribute to feeling tired and fatigued.
4. Rapid Breathing and Heartbeat
A ruptured spleen can cause a rapid heartbeat and breathing, especially if you’ve lost a lot of blood. This is your body’s response to try to keep up with the demand of the body’s tissues for oxygen.
5. Pale Complexion
A ruptured spleen can cause you to look pale due to blood loss. You may also have a yellowish tinge to your skin or eyes if the blood clotting mechanism is affected.
6. Blurred Vision
As a result of the low blood pressure, blood flow to the eyes can decrease, resulting in blurred vision or even double vision.
What Should You Do If You Think You Have a Ruptured Spleen?
If you experience pain in the upper left part of your abdomen or any of the symptoms associated with a ruptured spleen, see a doctor right away. Do not wait for the symptoms to go away or assume they’re caused by a minor injury. A ruptured spleen is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the spleen, but in others, the spleen can heal on its own with proper treatment.
How is a Ruptured Spleen Diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects you have a ruptured spleen, they will perform a physical exam and run some diagnostic tests, which may include:
- Blood tests to check for anemia, infection or other conditions that could cause spleen swelling.
- X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan to determine if the spleen is enlarged or has ruptured.
- Diagnostic peritoneal lavage, which is a procedure that involves inserting a tube into your abdomen to check for signs of blood or other fluids in the abdominal cavity.
Can You Prevent a Ruptured Spleen?
While there’s no way to completely prevent a ruptured spleen, you can take some steps to reduce your risk. These include:
- Wearing a seatbelt when you drive or ride in a car.
- Wearing protective gear when playing contact sports.
- Avoiding physical altercations or fighting.
- Keeping your spleen healthy by eating a well-balanced diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and tobacco.
A ruptured spleen is a serious medical condition that requires immediate attention. If you experience any of the symptoms associated with a ruptured spleen, see a doctor right away. While you can’t completely prevent a ruptured spleen, taking steps to reduce your risk is always a good idea.
Common Questions and Answers
What does a ruptured spleen feel like?
A ruptured spleen can cause pain in the upper left part of your abdomen or back. You might also feel weak, dizzy, or nauseous.
What causes a ruptured spleen?
A ruptured spleen can be caused by blunt force trauma, such as in a car accident or physical altercation, or by diseases that affect the spleen, such as mononucleosis or leukemia.
Is a ruptured spleen life-threatening?
A ruptured spleen can be life-threatening if not treated promptly. Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect you have a ruptured spleen.
Can a ruptured spleen heal on its own?
Depending on the severity of the rupture, a ruptured spleen can heal on its own with proper treatment. In some cases, surgery may be needed to remove the spleen.
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Ruptured Spleen. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ruptured-spleen/symptoms-causes/syc-20351568
- Healthline. (2021). Ruptured Spleen. https://www.healthline.com/health/ruptured-spleen#when-to-see-doctor
- Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d.). Spleen Trauma. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/spleen-trauma