What is a low platelet count?
Platelets Platelets The main components of blood include Plasma Red blood cells White blood cells Platelets read more are small cells that circulate in your bloodstream and help your blood clot. They're made in your bone marrow like other blood cells. Platelets are also called thrombocytes.
Your blood normally has a certain number of platelets in a given sample of blood. That number is your platelet count.
With a low platelet count, you bleed easily
You may have tiny purple spots on your skin and get nosebleeds and bleeding gums
A very low platelet count may cause bleeding in your brain or severe bleeding from your intestines
Many things can cause a low platelet count
Doctors may do tests to look for the cause
Doctors treat the cause of the low platelets and may give you a platelet transfusion
What causes a low platelet count?
Many things can cause a low platelet count:
Pregnancy: Some pregnant women with preeclampsia Preeclampsia and Eclampsia Preeclampsia is a certain type of high blood pressure that happens during pregnancy. The placenta (afterbirth) is the organ in your uterus (womb) that feeds your unborn baby (fetus). Preeclampsia... read more have low platelets
Infections: HIV infection Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection and AIDS The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a type of virus called a retrovirus. It causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), which is life-threatening. HIV is called an immunodeficiency... read more , hepatitis C Hepatitis C, Acute Acute hepatitis C is inflammation of the liver that is caused by the hepatitis C virus and that lasts from a few weeks up to 6 months. Hepatitis C is spread through contact with blood or other... read more , mononucleosis Infectious Mononucleosis (Mono) Infectious mononucleosis, often called mono, is a viral infection that is most common in teens and young adults. Mono is spread by close contact, such as kissing, with infected people Symptoms... read more , bodywide bacterial infections (sepsis Sepsis Sepsis is when germs (bacteria) get into your bloodstream and trigger a serious body-wide reaction. When sepsis is severe, one or more of your organs may shut down. For example, your kidneys... read more )
Drugs: Heparin, certain antibiotics, anticancer drugs
Enlarged spleen Enlarged Spleen An enlarged spleen is not a disease in itself but the result of an underlying disorder. Many disorders can make the spleen enlarge. Many disorders, including infections, anemias, and cancers... read more : Platelets can be trapped or destroyed in an enlarged spleen
What are the symptoms of a low platelet count?
The main symptom of low platelet count is excessive bleeding. You may have:
Tiny red spots on your skin or inside your mouth
Bruises after very minor injuries
Heavy menstrual periods
You're more likely to bleed the lower your platelet count drops. People who have very few platelets may bleed heavily from their intestines or have life-threatening bleeding in their brain.
What tests do I need for a low platelet count?
Sometimes the problem that caused your low platelet count is obvious, such as being pregnant, having a severe infection, or taking a certain drug.
If doctors aren't sure why your platelet count is low they may do:
Bone marrow biopsy (taking a sample of bone marrow to look at under a microscope)
How do doctors treat a low platelet count?
The main thing is to treat whatever caused the low platelet count. For example, if taking a drug caused your low platelet count, your doctor will stop giving you the drug if possible. If it was caused by an infection, your doctor will treat the infection.
Rarely, doctors will give you:
A platelet transfusion
Drugs to help your blood clot better