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(Low Platelet Count)

Definition and facts about thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)

  • Thrombocytopenia refers to an abnormally low level of platelets in the bloodstream.
  • Platelets are important for normal blood clotting.
  • With severe thrombocytopenia, excessive bleeding may occur.
  • Thrombocytopenia occurs because there is decreased production or increased destruction of platelets. It also can occur when the spleen enlarges and sequesters more platelets than usual.
  • Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT) arises due to an immune-mediated destruction of platelets that may occur with the blood thinner heparin and its related drugs.
  • Other prescription drugs also may cause thrombocytopenia in certain cases.
  • Viral infections may cause thrombocytopenia due to their effect on bone marrow, leading to decreased production of platelets.
  • A blood test is used to diagnose thrombocytopenia. It often is identified when blood tests are ordered for other reasons or during routine screening.
  • Signs of thrombocytopenia can include small pinpoint hemorrhages (petechiae) or bruises known as purpura.
  • Treatment of thrombocytopenia, when necessary, consists of platelet transfusions. Most patients with thrombocytopenia do not require regular platelet transfusion. If surgery is planned in a patient with a platelet count less than 50,000, then transfusion may be necessary

What is thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)?

Platelets (thrombocytes) are important elements in the blood that are important for blood coagulation (clotting and prevention of bleeding). Thrombocytopenia refers to having low platelet count in the blood compared to the normal range. The normal platelet count ranges between 150,000 and 450,000 per microliter (one-millionth of a liter). Only about 2/3 of platelets released into the blood stream circulate in the blood, and the remaining third are typically found in the spleen. The life cycle of platelets is usually about 7-10 days; therefore, the old ones are continuously being replaced by new ones.

Picture of a blood clot
Picture of a blood clot
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/13/2016

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What is a platelet count?

Platelet count measures the number of platelets in a volume of blood and usually ranges between 150,000 to 400,000 per cmm. The mean platelet volume (MPV) measures the average size of platelets in...

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