Thrombocytopenia

Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which there is an abnormally small number of platelets in your blood. Platelets are also called thrombocytes. Platelets are needed for blood clotting.

CAUSES

Thrombocytopenia is caused by:

  • Decreased production of platelets. This can be caused by:

  • Aplastic anemia in which your bone marrow quits making blood cells.

  • Cancer in the bone marrow.

  • Use of certain medicines, including chemotherapy.

  • Infection in the bone marrow.

  • Heavy alcohol consumption.

  • Increased destruction of platelets. This can be caused by:

  • Certain immune diseases.

  • Use of certain drugs.

  • Certain blood clotting disorders.

  • Certain inherited disorders.

  • Certain bleeding disorders.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Having an enlarged spleen (hypersplenism). In hypersplenism, the spleen gathers up platelets from circulation. This means the platelets are not available to help with blood clotting. The spleen can enlarge due to cirrhosis or other conditions.

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of thrombocytopenia are side effects of poor blood clotting. Some of these are:

  • Abnormal bleeding.

  • Nosebleeds.

  • Heavy menstrual periods.

  • Blood in the urine or stools.

  • Purpura. This is a purplish discoloration in the skin produced by small bleeding vessels near the surface of the skin.

  • Bruising.

  • A rash that may be petechial. This looks like pinpoint, purplish-red spots on the skin and mucous membranes. It is caused by bleeding from small blood vessels (capillaries).

DIAGNOSIS

Your caregiver will make this diagnosis based on your exam and blood tests. Sometimes, a bone marrow study is done to look for the original cells (megakaryocytes) that make platelets.

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the cause of the condition.

  • Medicines may be given to help protect your platelets from being destroyed.

  • In some cases, a replacement (transfusion) of platelets may be required to stop or prevent bleeding.

  • Sometimes, the spleen must be surgically removed.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Check the skin and linings inside your mouth for bruising or bleeding as directed by your caregiver.

  • Check your sputum, urine, and stool for blood as directed by your caregiver.

  • Do not return to any activities that could cause bumps or bruises until your caregiver says it is okay.

  • Take extra care not to cut yourself when shaving or when using scissors, needles, knives, and other tools.

  • Take extra care not to burn yourself when ironing or cooking.

  • Ask your caregiver if it is okay for you to drink alcohol.

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your caregiver.

  • Notify all your caregivers, including dentists and eye doctors, about your condition.

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You develop active bleeding from anywhere in your body.

  • You develop unexplained bruising or bleeding.

  • You have blood in your sputum, urine, or stool.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.