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The spleen is a gland (a special organ) in the body. It works closely with the circulatory system (the system which brings blood to the body).

Until recently, scientists did not know why the spleen was important. Now, scientists are realizing that without a spleen, a person is more likely to get certain infections. The spleen makes, keeps an eye on, destroys, and stores red blood cells. The spleen also makes red and white pulp. The red pulp takes unwanted things out of the bloodstream. The white pulp helps fight infections. Still, a person does not need a spleen to survive.

The spleen is shaped like a loose fist. It is tucked under the left side of the diaphragm.

The average adult spleen weighs 0.44 lbs. The spleen gets bigger while a person is digesting food, and afterwards. The spleen can also get bigger if a person is infected with malaria or mononucleosis ("mono").

If a person's spleen gets big enough, it can rupture (break). If this happens, the person needs medical care right away. He might need emergency surgery to control bleeding.

The spleen can also get bigger because of other diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, sickle cell anemia, leukemia, and lymphoma.