What is thrombocytopenia (low blood count)?

Thrombocytopenia is the alteration of the number of platelets. Platelets are colourless blood cells that help the blood clotting process and stop bleeding by clumping in blood vessel injuries. Thrombocytopenia is a condition where there is a decrease in platelets, which causes abnormal bleeding. It might occur because of bone marrow disorders such as leukaemia

What are the symptoms of thrombocytopenia?

The main symptoms of thrombocytopenia are:

  • Bleeding in the mouth and gums
  • Bruising, excessively and easily 
  • Nose bleeding
  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts
  • Heavy menstrual flow
  • Fatigue
  • Rash or other symptoms depending on the cause.

It is possible that in some cases the patient is asymptomatic.

What causes thrombocytopenia?

Its causes can be triggered by three reasons: insufficient production in the bone marrow, increased decomposition in the bloodstream, as well as in the spleen or liver and, finally, by other causes such as drug intake.

How is thrombocytopenia diagnosed?

The specialist (a haematologist) will make a physical examination and take your medical history. They will look for signs of bleeding under your skin and feel your abdomen to see if the spleen is enlarged. You will have a blood test so that a blood count can determine the number of platelets that are in your blood. 

How is it treated?

For those with mild thrombocytopenia, treatment may not be necessary. The ideal treatment will depend on the cause of thrombocytopenia although to prevent or stop bleeding in more severe cases, a blood platelet transfusion is most advisable. 

Certain medications such as aspirin or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for sports that can lead to trauma are recommended. 

If your thrombocytopenia is related to a disorder of the immune system, your doctor will prescribe drugs such as corticosteroid that boost the blood count.

Surgery is recommended to remove the spleen if other treatment does not work. 

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