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Thrombocytopenia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Thrombocytopenia is a condition that is characterized by a low blood platelet count. Since the platelets play a vital role in blood clotting, this condition can lead to abnormal bleeding. This article provides information on symptoms, causes, and the treatment available for this condition.
Bidisha Mukherjee
Last Updated: Feb 10, 2018
Thrombocytopenia is a blood-related ailment that occurs due to low count of blood platelets. These are produced in the bone marrow. The main function of platelets is to stop any bleeding caused by damage to a blood vessel. Normally, the platelet count in one micro-liter of blood varies in the range by 150,000 to 450,000. If the count is less than 150,000, then it is considered as below normal. Some mild bleeding can take place, when the count goes below 50,000. Possibilities of extensive bleeding arise when the count goes below 10,000 or 20,000 platelets per micro-liter.
The primary symptom of this condition is mild to serious bleeding. This can happen within the body (internal bleeding) or on the surface of the skin. A mild case of thrombocytopenia does not show any kind of symptoms. It is detected during a blood test. When it is severe, bleeding can start in any part of the body. Initial signs of low platelet count is bleeding on the skin. There are serious cases of blood loss caused just by minor bruises and cuts. Bleeding may occur through the nose, mouth, stool, and urine. Loss of blood may also occur by other means.
Thrombocytopenia could be caused by a wide range of reasons. This condition can be hereditary and people of any age can get affected by this disease. The primary factors that can lead to this condition are as follows:
Bone marrow is not producing sufficient platelets: Stem cells present in the bone marrow are responsible for the production of platelets in the blood. Diseases like leukemia damage the stem cells, thereby causing lower production. Aplastic anemia is a rare kind of blood disorder that results in the reduction of the platelet count in the body. This could also occur when the body is exposed to toxic substances such as pesticides or arsenic.
Large number of platelets are held by the spleen: Under normal circumstances, around one-third of the platelets produced in our body are held by the spleen. If the spleen gets enlarged due to liver diseases such as cirrhosis, it will hold more number of platelets than usual. As a result, the required concentration of platelets in the blood is reduced by a large extent.
The platelets made by bone marrow are destroyed or used: At times, the body tends to destroy its own platelets due to some autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, side effects of any kind of medicines, or some conditions that lead to excessive blood clotting.
The treatment administered would depend on the cause and severity of the ailment. The sole aim is to prevent the risk of life due to the loss of blood. A patient suffering from a mild case of this condition may not need any treatment. However, if the condition is serious, steroids are administered orally or through the veins. Those who are affected by active bleeding, need blood or platelet transfusion. For adults who are affected by this condition due to an enlarged spleen, the spleen may be removed by a surgery called splenectomy.
There are no preventive measures that can be taken to prevent this condition. However, one can seek advice of a doctor and take some steps that would help to arrest further complications.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.