Thrombocytopenia

What is Thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia involves low blood platelet count that prevents blood from clotting. The blood cells become colorless.

When you have injuries, the platelets prevent bleeding by forming plus in the vessels of the location of the injuries. It can be a side effect of some medication or it can a condition of some disorders like an immune system problem or leukemia.

Thrombocytopenia can be mild and have only a few symptoms or it can be severe enough that it causes internal bleeding. It can happen to young children and adults alike.

What are the Symptoms of Thrombocytopenia?

There are several signs that you have thrombocytopenia. Usually there will be excessive bruising that occurs easily or they may be superficial bleeding that looks like a rash of small spots that are red or purple on the skin. This superficial bleeding usually occurs on the lower legs. Cuts will usually bleed for a long time. Random nose bleeds or bleeding gums are also common.

You may also have blood in the stool or in your urine, very heavy menstrual flows, extreme fatigue, or even jaundice. An enlarged spleen is also a sign of thrombocytopenia.

Thrombocytopenia causes

Thrombocytopenia is caused when the blood platelet count is lower than normal. It can be genetic or can be caused by a condition or medication. Circulating blood platelets can be reduced by decreased production of platelets, increased damage of platelets, or when platelets are trapped in the spleen.

Decreased production of platelets

Platelets are made in the bone marrow. Thrombocytopenia can be developed if production becomes too low. Influences on platelet production include:

  • Certain types of anemia
  • Leukemia
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Viral infections (HIV/hepatitis C)
  • High alcohol consumption

Increased damage of platelets

In certain circumstances, the body can destroy platelets faster than they are produced, which causes there to be a shortage of platelets. Conditions that can cause this include:

  • Immune thrombocytopenia
  • Bacteria found in the blood
  • Pregnancy
  • Hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • Medications
  • Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura

Trapped platelets

The spleen in the human body filters material out of the blood and fights infection. Many disorders can cause an enlarged spleen, which causes the number of platelets in circulation to decrease.

How is Thrombocytopenia Treated?

If thrombocytopenia is mild, treatment may not be needed. When there are no symptoms it is possible that it will clear up on its own. If it is more severe though with several symptoms or if it is long-term, there are some courses of treatment that can be recommended.

One of the main courses of treatment is to address the main cause behind thrombocytopenia.  Medications may be prescribed to take care of the condition or you may be taken off medications that are causing the condition. If you have a condition that is immune system related, medications may be prescribed to increase your blood platelet count.  A corticosteroid drug is often the first choice but there are other medications that can work.

For those with a very low blood platelet count, a transfusion may be suggested. This will help replace packed blood cells. Surgery to remove the spleen may be required if other treatments are not helpful. In extreme cases, like thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a plasma exchange may be required.

Thrombocytopenia Prevention

To boost the production of the platelets, there are a few things that can be done. It is important to eat vegetables and fruit with a lot of antioxidants, such as tomatoes, beets, spinach, guava, and papaya. Items that contain alcohol, aspartame, and quinine (tonic water/bitter lemon) should be avoided as they can worsen the condition.

Balanced diets and calorie restriction can also improve the count of platelets. A balanced diet will ensure that the body receives all essential vitamins and minerals, which will promote the number of platelets. Blood work can confirm the levels within the body if they are unknown.

It is important for those with thrombocytopenia to remember to avoid injury. It can be difficult to make the blood stop, so it would be wise to consult a physician for safe activities.

Finally, over the counter medications are usually safe, but platelet function can be impaired by certain pain relievers.