What is Thrombocytosis?

Thrombocytosis is a condition that occurs when your body makes too many platelets. Platelets affect blood clotting.

It can be caused by another condition, like an infection. It can also be caused by a bone marrow or blood disease, although this is less common.

If it is caused by a bone marrow condition, it is called either autonomous, primary, or essential thrombocytosis. It may also be called essential thrombocythemia.

Thrombocytosis can be detected when routine blood tests are taken; they will show a very high platelet level.

What are the Symptoms of Thrombocytosis?

There are rarely any active symptoms for thrombocytosis.  If there are symptoms, they are usually related to a pre-existing condition.  Symptoms of thrombocytosis might include chest pain and general weakness.

You may experience fainting or lightheadedness and dizzy spells.  Headaches are common as are tingling or numbness in the hands and feet.  You may also have vision changes that are temporary.

Causes of Thrombocytosis

Bone marrow is comprised of stem cells that can turn into platelets (thrombocytes), white blood cells, or red blood cells. When blood vessels get damaged such as when people get cuts, platelets help form blood clots that stop the bleeding.

Too many platelets in the blood cause reactive thrombocytosis. It is important for a physician to conclude whether the diagnosis is reactive thrombocytosis or essential thrombocythemia if there is a high platelet count.

Thrombocytosis that began from a bone marrow disorder is known as essential thrombocythemia, and is caused by overproduction in the cells that form platelets. There is a high risk of bleeding complications or clotting in essential thrombocythemia.

Reactive thrombocytosis can be caused by a heart attack, allergic reactions, exercise, cancer, vitamin deficiency, iron deficiency, infections such as tuberculosis, removal of the spleen, coronary artery bypass, and acute bleeding. Other causes are chronic kidney failure, other kidney disorders, hemolytic anemia, inflammation from celiac disease, and disorders of connective tissue rheumatoid arthritis. Trauma, major surgeries, burns, pancreatitis, or even exercise can cause thrombocytosis.

There are also several medications to watch out for that can cause reactive thrombocytosis. These include epinephrine, heparin sodium, vincristine sulfate, and tretinoin.

How is Thrombocytosis Treated?

Treatment for thrombocytosis is focused on the condition that is causing it.  An injury or a recent surgery may be the cause behind an elevated platelet count, in which case it is temporary and will not last long.

If an inflammatory disease or a chronic condition is the reason, it must be brought under control before platelet counts will go back to normal. Drugs or medical procedures are not usually necessary.

Prevention of Thrombocytosis

Thrombocythemia cannot be prevented, but steps can be taken to reduce the risk of complications. Regulating high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, or high blood cholesterol can help control risk factors for blood clots.

It is important to follow healthy lifestyle behaviors, quit smoking, and work closely with your physician to control risk factors. With regular medical care, conditions of thrombocytosis may be detected before a high platelet count develops.

The primary objective for physicians is to treat the hyper-viscosity of the blood. Further research is necessary due to the limited number of large-scale studies in this area.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 11, 2017
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