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What Is a Low Platelet Count?
Blood is made up of several types of cells. These cells float in a liquid called plasma. The types of blood cells are:
- red blood cells
- white blood cells
- platelets, or thrombocytes
When your skin is hurt or broken, platelets clump together and form embolisms to stop the bleeding. When you don’t have adequate platelets in your blood, your body can not form embolisms.
A low platelet count might also be called thrombocytopenia. This condition can vary from mild to severe, depending on its underlying cause. For some, the symptoms can include severe bleeding and are possibly fatal if they’re not treated. Other people might not experience any symptoms.
Usually, a low platelet count is the result of a medical condition, like leukemia, or particular drugs. The treatment typically attends to the condition triggering the thrombocytopenia.
What Are the Symptoms of a Low Platelet Count?
Whether or not you experience symptoms of a low platelet count depends on your platelet count.
Moderate cases, such as when a low platelet count is triggered by pregnancy, normally do not cause any symptoms. More severe cases might cause unmanageable bleeding, which needs instant medical attention.
If you have a low platelet count, you might experience:
- red, purple, or brown bruises, which are called “purpura”.
- a rash with little red or purple dots called “petechiae”.
- bleeding gums.
- bleeding from wounds that lasts for an extended period or does not stop on its own.
- heavy menstrual bleeding.
- bleeding from the rectum.
- blood in the stools.
- blood in the urine.
In more serious cases, you may bleed internally. The symptoms of internal bleeding consist of:
- blood in the urine.
- blood in the stool.
- bloody or extremely dark vomit.
Talk with your doctor immediately if you experience any signs of internal bleeding.
Rarely, this condition may lead to bleeding in your brain. If you have a low platelet count and experience headaches or any neurological issues, inform your doctor immediately.
What Are the Causes of a Low Platelet Count?
The possible causes of a low platelet count include:.
Bone Marrow Problems
Your bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside the bone. It’s where all the parts of blood, including platelets, are produced. If your bone marrow isn’t really producing enough platelets, you’ll have a low platelet count. The causes of low platelet production consist of:
- aplastic anemia.
- a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
- a folate deficiency.
- an iron shortage.
- viral infections, including HIV, Epstein-Barr virus, and chickenpox.
- exposure to chemotherapy, radiation, or harmful chemicals.
- consuming alcohol.
Each platelet lives about 10 days in a healthy body. A low platelet count can likewise be a result of the body destroying too might platelets. This can be due to side effects of certain medications, consist of diuretics and anti-seizure medications. It can likewise be a symptom of:
- hypersplenism, or an enlarged spleen.
- an autoimmune condition.
- a bacterial infection in the blood.
- idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).
- thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).
- hemolytic uremic syndrome.
- distributed intravascular coagulation (DIC).
How Is a Low Platelet Count Diagnosed?
If your doctor thinks a low platelet count, they’ll first carry out a physical exam. During the examination, your doctor will examine your body for any unusual bruising or evidence of petechiae, which is a rash that frequently accompanies a low platelet count.
Your doctor may also feel your abdominal area to look for a bigger spleen, which can cause a low platelet count. You may also be asked if you have any family history of bleeding disorders since these types of conditions can run in households.
To identify this condition, your doctor has to do a complete blood count (CBC) test. This blood test takes a look at the amount of blood cells in your blood. It will inform your doctor if your platelet count is lower than it needs to be.
Your doctor might likewise wish to have your blood evaluated for platelet antibodies. These are proteins that your body produces and that ruin platelets. Platelet antibodies can be produced as a side effect to certain drugs, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), or for unidentified reasons.
Your doctor may likewise order blood-clotting tests, that includes partial thromboplastin time (PTT) and prothrombin time (PT). These tests simply require a sample of your blood. Specific chemicals will be contributed to the sample to determine for how long it takes your blood to clot.
If your doctor thinks that your spleen is bigger, they might order an ultrasound. This test will use sound waves to make an image of your spleen. It can assist your doctor figure out if your spleen is the correct size.
Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy
If your doctor presumes that an issue in your bone marrow is triggering your low platelet count, they may order a bone marrow aspiration. During an aspiration, your doctor will use a needle to get rid of a small amount of bone marrow from one of your bones.
A bone marrow biopsy might also be ordered. Your doctor will use a needle to take a sample of your core bone marrow, generally from the hipbone. It might be performed at the same time as a bone marrow goal.
What Is the Treatment for a Low Platelet Count?
The treatment for a low platelet count depends on the cause and severity of your condition. If your condition is mild, your doctor may want to hold off on treatment and simply monitor you.
Your doctor might suggest that you take measures to prevent your condition from intensifying. This might include:
- avoiding contact sports.
- preventing activities with a high risk of bleeding or bruising.
- quit alcohol consumption.
- stopping or changing medications that impact platelets, consisting of aspirin and ibuprofen.
If your low platelet count is more severe, you might require medical treatment. This might include:
- blood or platelet transfusions.
- altering medications that are causing a low platelet count.
- immune globulin.
- corticosteroids to block platelet antibodies.
- drugs that suppress your immune system.
- a splenectomy, or the surgical elimination of the spleen.
What Is the Outlook for People with Low Platelet Count?
Not everyone with a low platelet count requires treatment. Some conditions that cause a low platelet count will ultimately clean up. The platelet count will return to healthy levels in those cases.
Nevertheless, people with severe cases might require treatment. Sometimes, a low platelet count can be repaired by treating the underlying cause. Your doctor will deal with you to come up with a treatment strategy that assists you handle your symptoms.