Low platelet count also known as thrombocytopenia is a medical condition which features with decreased number of the platelets, the type of the blood cells in charge with blood coagulation. Low platelet count usually accompanies certain medical conditions such as leukemia or autoimmune diseases but it can also be a side effect of some medications. Severe thrombocytopenia carries significant risk of internal bleeding and may be life-threatening. Mild forms are not so serious and sometimes require no therapy.
Symptoms and Signs of low Platelet Count
Patients suffering from low platelet count are prone to bruising and they bruise rather easily. The bleeding usually affects skin and leads to formation of petechiae (pinpoint- sized reddish to purple spots). Another sign is prolonged bleeding after cuts. In severe forms the bleeding may be spontaneous and affect gums or nose. The blood may be even visible in the stool or urine. In women menstrual bleeding may be either prolonged or heavy. And finally, the bleeding during surgery or after tooth extraction may be heavy and last longer than normal.
Causes of Low Platelet Count
Platelets are produced in the bone marrow. So, one of the causes may be insufficient production of these blood cells. On the other hand another cause may be increased destruction of platelets.
Enlarged spleen usually destroys too many platelets leading to thrombocytopenia. Furthermore, increased destruction of platelets occurs in a variety of medical conditions such as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, hemolytic uremic syndrome, different autoimmune diseases (lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis etc.), bacteriemia and so on. Increased destruction of these blood cells may also affect pregnant women or is caused by certain medications.
Insufficient production of platelets is basically caused by illnesses of the bone marrow such as leukemia and certain types of anemia. Even HIV or other viral infections may interfere in production of thrombocytes. And finally, side effects of toxic chemicals and chemotherapy always cause low platelet count.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Low Platelet Count
Low platelet count is easily diagnosed thanks to a complete blood count which gives information about all three types of blood cells. Physical examination of patients suffering from low platelet count may point to the presence of petechiae and other signs of bleeding.
Treatment for low platelet count is only necessary in severe form of the disease. There are several treatment modalities and the most significant ones include treatment of the underlying medical condition and blood transfusions. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura patients are administered medications which suppress the activity of antibodies that attack platelets.
The most serious complication of low platelet count is internal bleeding. It occurs when the number of platelets drops below 10.000 platelets per microliter.