Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)
Thrombocytopenia is the medical term for a low blood platelet count. Platelets (thrombocytes) are colorless blood cells that play an important role in blood clotting. Platelets stop blood loss by clumping and forming plugs in blood vessel holes.
Thrombocytopenia often occurs as a result of a separate disorder, such as leukemia or an immune system malfunction, or as a medication side effect. Thrombocytopenia may be mild and cause few signs or symptoms. In rare cases, the number of platelets may be so low that dangerous internal bleeding can occur.
Thrombocytopenia usually improves when the underlying cause is treated. Sometimes medications, surgery or a blood transfusion can help treat chronic thrombocytopenia.
Signs and symptoms of thrombocytopenia may include:
When to see a doctor
Bleeding that won't stop is a medical emergency. Seek immediate help if you experience bleeding that can't be controlled by usual first-aid techniques, such as applying pressure to the area.
Petechiae may look like a rash and usually appear in clusters. Here they appear on a leg (A) and on an abdomen (B). ...
If for any reason your blood platelet count falls below normal, the condition is called thrombocytopenia. Normally, you have anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of circulating blood. Because each platelet lives only about 10 days, your body continually renews your platelet supply by producing new platelets in your bone marrow.
Thrombocytopenia has many possible causes.
Trapping of platelets in the spleen
Reduced production of platelets
Increased breakdown of platelets
The spleen is a small organ normally about the size of your fist. But a number of conditions, including liver disease and some cancers, can cause your spleen to become enlarged. ...
Dangerous internal bleeding can occur when your platelet count falls below 10,000 platelets per microliter. Though rare, severe thrombocytopenia can cause bleeding into the brain or intestines, which can be fatal.
Preparing for your appointment
Start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner if you have any signs or symptoms that worry you. Most cases of thrombocytopenia can be managed by your family doctor. In certain situations, your doctor may recommend that you see a doctor who treats blood diseases (hematologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important, in case time runs out. For thrombocytopenia, some basic questions to ask include:
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions at any time that you don't understand something.
Tests and diagnosis
Tests to diagnose thrombocytopenia
Other tests to determine the cause of thrombocytopenia
Treatments and drugs
Mild thrombocytopenia may not need treatment
Treatments for more severe thrombocytopenia
Lifestyle and home remedies
If you have thrombocytopenia, try to:
Last Updated: 2010-02-20
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