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The Spleen

Immune SystemThe spleen is part of your immune system. (Read about "The Immune System") Its job is to help you fight off infection and store extra blood. Before you are born, the spleen makes your red blood cells, but then turns that job over to the bone marrow after birth. The spleen is located in the upper left of the abdomen, just about where your rib cage begins.

The fist sized organ is made up of two types of tissue according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The job of the red pulp tissue is to filter out old worn out red blood cells and get rid of them. At the same time, it also can filter out bacteria, parasites and debris from the blood. (Read about "Microorganisms") The white pulp tissue is made of the same material as the lymph nodes and makes certain immune cells. (Read about "The Lymph System" and "Immune System Glossary")

The location of the spleen makes it susceptible to injury. It can also be damaged by disease and infection.

Sickle cell disease can damage the spleen (Read about "Sickle Cell Disease"), as can diseases such as:

It is possible to live without your spleen, according to NIH. However, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) says people who have their spleen removed have a greater risk of infection, especially in the first two years. AAFP says someone whose spleen has been taken out should contact their doctor at the first sign of infection, or if they develop a severe sore throat, unexplained cough, severe abdominal pain, headache or drowsiness. They should also talk with their physician about vaccinations they might need against specific diseases. In addition, they should make sure their dentist or any other healthcare workers know that they have no spleen.

Related Information:

    Primary Immunodeficiency

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