Health Library

Does Size Matter?

Does Size Matter

Main Article Content

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

Turns out, size does matter. The size of your organs, that is. Enlarged organs are typically a result of underlying health issues that shouldn’t be ignored. Learn what symptoms to look for and what they could be telling you about your health.

Enlarged Brain

The man’s brain is typically 10 percent larger than the female brain. Before you get ready to boast, a bigger brain doesn’t mean you’re smarter. However, there does appear to be a difference in how the male and female brain functions.

While size itself doesn’t raise cause for concern, swelling in the brain is serious. Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, irregular breathing, memory loss and vomiting. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

Enlarged Heart

An enlarged heart is a sign of muscle damage, typically caused by high blood pressure, inherited heart muscle weakening, heart valve disorders or coronary artery disease. Any enlargement of the heart should prompt a conversation with your usual physician. There are effective therapies that are very helpful and will prevent continued enlargement or lead to a reversal. The consequence of unrecognized or untreated heart enlargement may be heart failure. Speak with your physician if your exhibit signs like swelling or unanticipated shortness of breath.

Enlarged Spleen

This underappreciated organ performs several functions, including eliminating dead blood cells and producing bacteria-fighting white blood cells. Located just under your left rib cage, the spleen can become enlarged for a number of reasons, including infection, liver disease and some cancers. It is typically only found after an examination, as it does not typically cause any symptoms.

Swollen Penis

A swollen penis (balanitis) involves swelling of the foreskin or head of the penis. This can result from infection, such as a yeast infection or sexually transmitted disease. Other than swelling, symptoms of infection may include pain, redness, itching and painful urination. If the cause is a yeast or bacterial infection, your physician may prescribe an antifungal cream or antibiotic. During treatment, you should abstain from intercourse or wear a condom. Sexually transmitted diseases that result in swelling can include herpes, chlamydia or syphilis. Consult your physician if problems persist.

Enlarged Prostate

The prostate tends to grow after the age of 40 as a result of male hormones, growth factors and other cell signaling pathways. As it grows, the urethra can be squeezed, making it difficult to urinate and completely empty the bladder. This can lead to urinary tract infections, bladder stones and possible bladder or kidney damage. Prostate issues can also cause sexual problems, including erectile dysfunction.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or conditions, consult your primary physician.

- Clyde W. Yancy, MD, Northwestern Medical Group, Heart Failure and Heart Transplantation

- Nelson E. Bennett Jr, MD, Northwestern Medical Group, Urology

Interested in connecting more to the Northwestern Medicine community? Sign up for the Healthy Tips E-Newsletter for everything from health and wellness ideas to patient breakthroughs to academic and medical advancements. Because what makes us better, makes you better.