Platelets are a crucial part of blood composition. They are produced in the bone marrow and have a life span of about 7 to 10 days. At a given time, only 75% of platelets are found in the systemic circulation, the rest of the platelets are found in spleen. They play a vital role in blood clotting system by stopping bleeding and healing the wound. The platelets help in forming blood clot by platelet activation, aggregation and mesh formation at the site of injury. The normal count of platelets in the blood is about 150,000-450,000 per cubic millimeter. If the count is lower than 150,000 per cubic millimeter then it is known as thrombocytopenia.
Causes Of Thrombocytopenia
Thrombocytopenia can be due to various medical conditions. They may be either due to platelet entrapment in spleen as in splenomegaly, decreased platelet production by bone marrow as in leukemia, anemias, viral infections, excessive alcoholism and chemotherapy. Thrombocytopenia may also be a result of increased platelet breakdown as in pregnancy, bacterial infection, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, hemolytic uremic syndrome, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, and certain medications including quinine and heparin.
Symptoms Of Thrombocytopenia
Thrombocytopenia occurs when the blood platelet count is less than 150,000 per cubic millimeter of blood. Generally, if the platelet count is around 100,000-150,000 per cubic millimeter, then there may not be many symptoms, but if the platelet count falls below 100,000 per cubic millimeter of blood then symptoms may be apparent. These include increased chance of bleeding along with petechiae formation along with fatigue, weakness and malaise. There is a greater risk for spontaneous bleeding if the platelet count drops below 20,000-10,000 per cubic millimeter of blood and needs immediate medical attention. When the platelet count is below 50,000 per cubic millimeter, then the chance of serious and excessive bleeding is high if the individual is cut or bruised. This requires close monitoring of the individual, so that one is not injured.
What Happens If Platelet Count is 50,000?
The patient who has platelet count of 50,000 per cubic millimeter or below then the patient is monitored closely for even a small cut or bruise because even a small cut will bleed profusely as his/her body lacks enough platelets for blood clot formation. The patient is asked to avoid any sharp objects such as the use of knife for cutting and chopping and razors for shaving. The patient is also advised to wear shoes or slippers at all times to avoid any injury to foot. They are also advised to wear gloves while gardening and also while working with tools, to avoid activities that might lead to injury such as cycling or biking. It is advised to use soft bristle toothbrush and to avoid using dental floss. They are also advised to use lip balm to avoid lips from chapping and menstruating women are advised to use sanitary pads instead of tampons.
Patients are also advised to protect themselves against bruising and these might include preventative measures by moving furniture or rugs that might lead to bumping or tripping.
Patients should consult a doctor before taking any over the counter pain medication such as anti-inflammatories including aspirin or ibuprofen as they have increased tendency to thin blood.
Patients with platelet count below 50,000 per cubic millimeter should be very conscious of getting cold as patient with nose congestion may have nosebleed by blowing nose, so they should use decongestants for that and cough syrup for cough.
It is advisable to the patient to avoid constipation or hemorrhoids and also to avoid straining during defecation. They should eat foods rich in fiber, stay hydrated and take laxatives.
If bleeding does occur then they should stop bleeding as soon as possible by applying pressure to the area for over 5 minutes and if bleeding does not stop even after 10 minutes, then they should contact their doctor. If the platelet count drops excessively, then platelet transfusion is the only choice.
- Mayo Clinic. (2021). Thrombocytopenia. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thrombocytopenia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378293
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (2021). Thrombocytopenia. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/thrombocytopenia
- National Cancer Institute. (2021). Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count). https://www.cancer.gov/publications/dictionaries/cancer-terms/def/thrombocytopenia