About Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count))
Learn about the disease, illness and/or condition Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count)) including: symptoms, causes, treatments, contraindications and conditions at ClusterMed.info.
Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count))
|Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count))|
Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count)) Information
Decreased platelet production
Decreased platelet production is usually related to a bone marrow problem. In some of these conditions, red blood cell and white blood cell productions may also be affected.
Increased platelet destruction or consumption
Increased platelet destruction or consumption can be seen a number of medical conditions. They can be divided into immune related and non-immune related causes. Many medications can cause low platelet count by causing immunologic reaction against platelets, called drug-induced thrombocytopenia. Some examples may include:
Splenic sequestration can also lead to low platelet counts as a result of enlargement or change in function of the spleen for a variety of reasons. When the spleen enlarges, it can retain (sequester) more than the usual amount of platelets. Common causes of thrombocytopenia due to splenic enlargement may include advanced liver disease with portal hypertension (cirrhosis, for example, from chronic hepatitis B or C) and blood cancers (leukemias or lymphomas).
Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) definition and facts
Can thrombocytopenia be prevented?
In general, thrombocytopenia can be prevented if the cause is known and it is preventable. For example, if a certain medication is found to induce low platelet count in an individual, then its future use needs to be avoided. Alcohol avoidance should be encouraged in people with known alcohol-induced thrombocytopenia. Current and future use of all heparin products must be avoided in people diagnosed with heparin-induced thrombocytopenia.
How is thrombocytopenia diagnosed?
Thrombocytopenia is usually detected incidentally from routine blood work done for other reasons. Platelets are a component of the complete blood count (CBC) which also contains information on red blood cells and white blood cells. If thrombocytopenia is seen for the first time, it is prudent to repeat the complete blood count in order to exclude pseudothrombocytopenia (see above). If the repeat CBC confirms low platelet counts, then further evaluation can begin. Once detected, the cause of thrombocytopenia may be investigated by the doctor. The most essential part of this evaluation includes a thorough physical examination and medical history of the patient. In the medical history, the complete list of all medications is routinely reviewed. Some of the other important components of the history include reviewing previous known history of low platelet count, family history of thrombocytopenia, recent infections, any previous cancers, other autoimmune disorders, or liver disease. A review of the symptoms related to excessive bleeding or bruising can also provide additional information. As a part of a thorough physical examination, special attention may be given to the skin and mucus membrane in the oral cavity for petechiae or purpura or other signs of bleeding. On the abdominal examination, an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) can provide important diagnostic clues. The urgency to perform additional testing and evaluation is largely dependent on how low the platelet count is on the blood count, and what the clinical situation may be. For instance, in a person who needs a surgery and has a platelet count of less than 50,000 the investigation will take precedence over one whose thrombocytopenia was detected on a yearly blood work with a platelet of 100,000. A comprehensive review of the other components of the CBC is one of the most important steps in the evaluation of low platelet count. The CBC can tell us whether other blood disorders may be present, such as, anemia (low red cell count or hemoglobin), erythrocytosis (high red blood cell count or hemoglobin), leukopenia (low white cells count), or leukocytosis (elevated white blood cell count). These abnormalities may suggest bone marrow problems as the potential cause of thrombocytopenia. Abnormally shaped or ruptured red cells (schistocytes) seen on the blood smear may suggest evidence of HELLP, TTP, or HUS (see above). Another clue in the CBC is the mean platelet volume or MPV, which is an estimate of the average size of platelets in the blood. A low MPV number may suggest platelet production problem, whereas, a high number may indicate increased destruction. It is important to also review other blood work including the complete metabolic panel, coagulation panel, and urinalysis. Certain abnormalities in these tests can suggest advanced liver disease (cirrhosis), kidney problems (renal failure), or other pertinent underlying medical conditions. In some causes of thrombocytopenia, such as HIT or ITP, additional testing with antibodies may be useful. Bone marrow biopsy may sometimes be performed if a bone marrow problem is suspected.
What are the complications of thrombocytopenia?
The complications of thrombocytopenia may be excessive bleeding after a cut or an injury resulting in hemorrhage and major blood loss. However, spontaneous bleeding (without any injury or laceration) due to thrombocytopenia is uncommon, unless the platelet count is less than 10,000. Other complications may be related to any other underlying factors or conditions. For example, autoimmune thrombocytopenia related to lupus may be associated with other complications of lupus. TTP or HUS can have many complications including severe anemia, confusion or other neurologic changes, or kidney failure. HIT or heparin induced thrombocytopenia can have devastating complications related to blood clot formation (thrombosis). The mortality rate for HIT is currently about 6%-10%.
What are the symptoms of thrombocytopenia?
In many instances, thrombocytopenia may have no symptoms, especially if mild, and it can be detected only incidentally on routine blood work done for other reasons. However, the symptoms and signs of thrombocytopenia may include:
What causes thrombocytopenia?
Low platelet counts or thrombocytopenia, can be caused by a variety of reasons. In general, they can be divided into:
What is the prognosis for a person with thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)?
The prognosis for someone with thrombocytopenia depends on the cause and the severity of the disease. Generally, when thrombocytopenia is diagnosed early, the outcomes are very good. However, delayed diagnosis can result in problems ranging from heart attack, organ damage (for examples, spleen, bowel, kidney) to pulmonary embolism, each of which has a more guarded prognosis. HIT, as previously mentioned, is serious and still has a mortality rate that varies from about 6%-10%.
What is the treatment for thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)?
The treatment of thrombocytopenia is largely dependent upon the cause and the severity of the condition. Some situations may require specific or emergent treatments, whereas, others need only be managed by occasional blood draws and monitoring of the platelet levels. In auto-immune thrombocytopenia or ITP, steroids can be used to suppress the immune system in order to impair the destruction of platelets. In more severe cases, intravenous immunoglobulins (IVIG) or monoclonal antibodies may also be given to alter the immune process. In refractory cases, splenectomy (removal of the spleen) may be necessary. If a drug is thought to be the cause of low platelet count, then it may be discontinued by the supervising physician. In patients with HIT, it is very important to remove and limit the future use of any heparin products, including low molecular weight heparin (like Lovenox), immediately to prevent further immune response against the platelets. If TTP or HUS is diagnosed, the treatment may include plasma exchange, plasmapheresis, or eculizumab. In cases with severe kidney failure, dialysis may be necessary. In general, platelet transfusion is not necessary, unless an individual with low platelets (less than 50,000) has an active bleeding or hemorrhage, or needs a surgery or other invasive procedures. Frequently, a platelet transfusion may be recommended without any bleeding if the count is less than 10,000. In suspected cases of HIT or TTP, transfusion of platelets may not be recommended because the new platelets could potentially make the condition worse and more prolonged.
What is thrombocytopenia (low platelet count)?
Thrombocytopenia is a lower than normal number of platelets (less than 150,000 platelets per microliter) in the blood. Normal platelet counts range from 150,000 to 400,000 per microliter in the blood. Platelets are one of the cellular components of the blood along with white and red blood cells. Platelets play an important role in clotting and bleeding. Platelets are made in the bone marrow similar to other cells in the blood. Platelets originate from megakaryocytes which are large cells found in the bone marrow. The fragments of these megakaryocytes are platelets that are released into the blood stream. The circulating platelets make up about two third of the platelets that are released from the bone marrow. The other one third is typically stored (sequestered) in the spleen. Platelets, in general, have a brief lifespan in the blood (7 to 10 days), after which they are removed from circulation. The number of platelets in the blood is referred to as the platelet count and is normally between 150,000 to 400,000 per micro liter (one millionth of a liter) of blood. Platelet counts less than 150,000 are termed thrombocytopenia. A platelet count greater than 400,000 is called thrombocytosis. Platelets participate in coagulation. Platelets initiate a sequence of reactions that eventually lead to the formation of a blood clot. They circulate in the blood vessels and become activated if there is any bleeding or injury in the body. Certain chemicals are released from the injured blood vessels or other structures that signal platelets to become activated and join the other components of the system to initiate coagulation. When activated, the platelets become sticky and adhere to one another and to the blood vessel wall at the site of the injury to slow down and stop the bleeding by plugging up the damaged blood vessel or tissue (hemostasis). It is important to note even though the platelet numbers are decreased in thrombocytopenia, their function often remains completely intact. Other disorders exist that can cause impaired platelet function despite normal platelet count. A platelet count below 10,000 is severe thrombocytopenia and may result in spontaneous bleeding. In mild thrombocytopenia, there may be no adverse effects in the clotting or bleeding pathways. These effects vary with different low platelet counts from person to person.
When should I seek medical care for thrombocytopenia?
If thrombocytopenia is detected on a routine blood work, it is generally addressed and investigated by the physician who orders the test. In people with known thrombocytopenia, follow-up care is decided based on the diagnosis and the severity. However, if a person has one or more of the above listed symptoms, they should seek a health-care professional as thrombocytopenia may quickly worsen and become serious in some individuals. People with thrombocytopenia are, in general, initially cared for by an internist or a family practice physician. Sometimes, consultation with a doctor who specializes in blood disorders (hematologist) is helpful for more thorough investigation or treatment, but others may require additional help.
Which specialties of doctors treat thrombycytopenia (low platelet count)?
Although some primary care doctors and pediatricians can treat thrombocytopenia, other specialists such as emergency medicine, hematologists, internal medicine, critical care and immunologists may be needed to treat and diagnose the problem or its underlying cause.
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