In multiple sclerosis (MS), lesions form in the fatty protective sheath, called myelin, that surrounds the nerves of the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system or CNS). Having this chronic autoimmune disease also increases your chance of having additional health conditions, known as comorbidities. Some members of MyMSTeam have wondered whether MS or MS treatments can affect the spleen or have reported pain or other sensations in the region of their spleen.
“For the last three weeks I have had an increasing tremor, twitch, [and] spasm by my spleen,” shared one member.
“Has anyone had [a] situation where they had trouble regulating their body temp., had night sweats and an enlarged spleen?” asked another member.
No current research indicates that MS or disease-modifying therapies (DMTs) for MS can directly impact a person’s spleen. However, other medical conditions related to MS may. If you have concerns about the health of your spleen, speak with your health care team.
Your spleen is a small organ (about the size of an avocado or your clenched fist) that sits just above your stomach inside of your left rib cage. As part of your lymphatic system and immune system, your spleen works to keep your body healthy.
Your spleen has multiple functions, including:
The spleen is the largest organ in the immune system. It has two types of tissues — the red pulp and the white pulp. The white pulp is where immune cells, including B cells and T cells, mature and stay until the immune system is activated to fight an infection. The red pulp is the part of the spleen that filters the blood.
There does not appear to be a direct connection between MS and problems with the spleen. The lesions caused by MS in the CNS do not directly affect the spleen.
Although MS itself is not known to cause problems with the spleen, other medical conditions related to MS can. For example, some scientists believe a prior infection with the Epstein-Barr virus — which causes mononucleosis (or mono) — may result in genetic changes in some people that raise the risk for the development of MS. The Epstein-Barr virus is known to cause an enlarged spleen.
Disease-modifying therapies are prescription medications designed to reduce the frequency of MS relapses or flare-ups and the development of new CNS lesions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved more than 20 DMTs for treating MS.
DMTs work by modifying the activity of different immune cells and proteins. There is no research linking any DMTs or side effects with spleen pain or an enlarged spleen. Talk with your health care provider if you are concerned that your MS therapies are affecting your spleen or other organs.
There are many different conditions and injuries that can affect how your spleen works.
The most common problem is splenomegaly, an enlarged spleen. This condition can be dangerous since the spleen can rupture (burst open) or bleed. The following conditions may cause an enlarged spleen:
Functional asplenia occurs when your spleen doesn’t work properly. It may be overactive and destroy healthy red blood cells. This can increase the risk of infection and cause bruising and bleeding. Functional asplenia may be caused by:
A damaged or ruptured spleen can result from car crashes and blows to the stomach area. This is a life-threatening injury that can cause severe internal bleeding.
An enlarged spleen often does not cause any signs or symptoms. Sometimes, people may notice the following:
Symptoms of a ruptured spleen are generally more obvious:
On MyMSTeam, the social network for people with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones, more than 186,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with multiple sclerosis.
Have you had spleen problems along with MS? Have you wondered whether they’re connected? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.