What is thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is a disorder in which there are too few platelets in the blood. Platelets are small, disk-shaped cellular fragments in the bloodstream that help the blood to clot. Thus, thrombocytopenia is often characterized by excessive bleeding, including nosebleeds and easy bruising. Thrombocytopenia can be diagnosed by a routine blood test.

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Thrombocytopenia arises for one of three reasons: the bone marrow may not produce enough platelets; too many platelets may be broken down in the blood; or too many platelets may be destroyed in the liver or spleen. Thrombocytopenia can be caused by a variety of conditions or medications.

Thrombocytopenia can occur as a complication of diseases such as leukemia or HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection. It may also be related to the use of certain medications. In some cases, too many platelets are trapped and stored in the spleen (an organ in the abdomen that is responsible for filtering the blood), leaving too few platelets in circulation.

Treatment of thrombocytopenia depends on the type and cause of platelet deficiency. In severe cases, platelet transfusions may be required. Similarly, the outcome and complications of thrombocytopenia also depend on the type and cause of the disorder.

Emergency attention should be obtained if you have any unexplained or unusual bleeding or bruising, which may indicate a life-threatening case of thrombocytopenia. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you have serious symptoms, such as excessive or uncontrollable bleeding and unexplained bruising.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of thrombocytopenia?

Mild cases of thrombocytopenia may not produce any symptoms. The symptoms of moderate thrombocytopenia are related to problems in blood clotting, such as frequent or easy bruising or bleeding, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or a rash. In severe cases, unexplained bruising or bleeding may occur, including bleeding in the brain or in other internal organs.... Read more about thrombocytopeniasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia, or a low level of platelets in the blood, can arise from a variety of diseases, disorders or conditions that cause either low platelet production or excessive platelet breakdown. Platelet breakdown can occur in the bloodstream, liver or spleen.... Read more about thrombocytopeniacauses

TREATMENTS

How is thrombocytopenia treated?

In mild cases of thrombocytopenia, no treatment may be required. For moderate cases, treatment depends on the cause of thrombocytopenia. In cases related to medications or environmental contaminants, thrombocytopenia may resolve on its own once the underlying cause is removed. In other moderate cases, medication may be prescribed in order to increase platelet counts. In severe thrombocytopenia, procedures such as blood transfusion, platelet transfusion, or splenectomy (surgical removal of the spleen) may be necessary.... Read more about thrombocytopeniatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation