The spleen is an organ located in the upper far left part of the abdomen. It lies just behind the stomach and the rib cage protects it. The spleen is fist-shaped, purple, and about four inches long. Although it varies in size and shape between people, the organ’s location is in all vertebrates.
Recycling of old red blood cells occurs in the spleen. It’s also a place to store platelets and white blood cells. Without a spleen, you are more at risk of getting sick or contracting serious infections. Here are some of the top functions of the spleen that will make you appreciate this remarkable organ.
1. Filters Blood
The major function of the spleen is to filter the blood. The spleen removes old, malformed, or damaged red blood cells. Prevents pathogens from reaching the bloodstream. It also eliminates harmful micro-organisms from the blood. Within it are white blood cells called lymphocytes. These cells work to attack and destroy germs. They also remove them from the blood that passes through the spleen.
2. Production Of Blood Cells
The spleen assists in the production of red and white blood cells. As a fetus is developing, the spleen makes red blood cells, but it stops after the fifth month of gestation. Old red blood cells are reborn in the spleen, causing the production of new red blood cells. A bad spleen or a less functional one can lead to serious health issues.
3. Storage of Blood
The spleen stores blood in case of an emergency. Platelets and red blood cells are in the spleen to refuel when needed. Up to 240ml of red blood cells remain in the spleen and are released in hypovolemia and hypoxia cases. If the body loses blood, the blood stored in the spleen enters into the body’s circulatory system. The spleen can increase in size to be able to store more blood. About 25% of the RBC is stored in the spleen (1).
4. Fights Unwanted Micro-organisms
The spleen can recognize any unwanted micro-organisms such as viruses and bacteria. Once it locates bacteria, the spleen and the lymph nodes combine to create an army of lymphocytes. These special cells get into attack mode to fight and destroy unwanted micro-organisms.
They do this by producing very powerful antibodies that halt any further spread. The spleen destroys bacteria that cause pneumonia and meningitis found in the bloodstream. People who have had their spleen removed or born without one have high infection risks.
5. Helps in Clotting of Blood
Blood flows for a while before it ceases when you have an injury on your body. The blood stops flowing because it clots due to a complex process. A blood clot is when the blood changes state from liquid to semi-solid. And this is what forms where the injury occurs.
Blood clot occurs because the spleen has stored red blood cells and platelets. When there is a cut or an injury in any part of the body, the spleen makes blood available from the bank storage. It then helps the body to stop or reduce blood loss.
6. Helps In The Production Of Haemoglobin
Vital components in old cells gather and remain in the spleen. This is economical and saves the body the stress of reproducing those components. Components like iron exist in the form of bilirubin or ferritin.
The spleen later transports these two to the bone marrow. Haemoglobin, an important blood component, is also produced in the bone marrow. Oxygen needs to move from the lungs to where the body needs it. Producing hemoglobin is, thus, one of the critical functions of the spleen.
7. Gets Rid Of Damaged Red Blood Cells
The spleen’s functions also include eradicating unhealthy, damaged, malformed, old, and dysfunctional red blood cells. The spleen acts as a sieve in the body. Blood flows through the body and all the red blood cells that are not useful to the body leaves. The spleen performs quality control by creating a maze of narrow passages.
The red blood cells must pass through it like a security check at the airport. Healthy red blood cells flow through the spleen. The spleen breaks down damaged red blood cells immediately, with the help of macrophages. It then extracts all vital components from the cells and uses them to produce hemoglobin.
8. Protects Against Infections
The spleen plays a vital role in the fight against infection. To achieve this, it acts as an antibiotic in the body. It protects against every bacteria or organism that can cause infections. People without a spleen need to take serious precautions and lifestyle behaviors. Some of them need to get vaccinated regularly and take oral antibiotics daily. All these show the spleen is very important in the overall protection of the body against infections.
9. Increases The Body’s Immunity
Immune cells known as monocytes are stored in the spleen. The body produces large numbers of monocytes, and the spleen is a reservoir. For example, when the body undergoes trauma, the body uses monocytes to help recovery (2).
It also happens when a person experiences a heart attack or microbial invasion. The spleen acts like an army base and the monocytes, an army of soldiers waiting to tackle any invasion. When it comes to the issue of immunity, the spleen plays a vital role.
10. Performs Checkup On The Body
The spleen is also responsible for maintaining the well-being and health of the body. There are lots of activities going on per second in the body that we are not aware of. Certain organs in the body are responsible for making these activities seamless. There are many functions of the spleen, but the most important is keeping you safe.
Sometimes, your spleen also helps reduce pain through checkups. This is why you will feel internal pain for a while. And in a second, the pain is gone, the spleen has taken precautions. With a very active spleen, you can have good health. Take care of your spleen by eating healthy and having boosting your immunity.
The spleen helps filter blood, controlling the amount of red blood cells and blood storage in the body. It also protects the body against infections. When the spleen discovers dangerous bacteria and viruses in the blood, it, together with the lymph nodes, creates white blood cells called lymphocytes, which produce antibodies that protect the body from infections and foreign microorganisms.