Thrombocytopenia is any disorder in which there is an abnormally low amount of platelets. Platelets are parts of the blood that help blood to clot. This condition is sometimes associated with abnormal bleeding.
Thrombocytopenia is often divided into three major causes of low platelets:
Your bone marrow may not make enough platelets if you have any of the following conditions:
Use of certain drugs may also lead to a low production of platelets in the bone marrow. The most common example is chemotherapy treatment.
The following health conditions cause increased breakdown of platelets:
You may not have any symptoms. Or you may have general symptoms, such as:
Other symptoms depend on the cause.
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history and symptoms. The following tests may be done:
Other tests that may help diagnose this condition include bone marrow aspiration or biopsy.
Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. In some cases, a transfusion of platelets may be required to stop or prevent bleeding.
The outcome depends on the disorder causing the low platelet counts.
Severe bleeding (hemorrhage) is the main complication. Bleeding may occur in the brain or gastrointestinal tract.
Call your healthcare provider if you experience unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Prevention depends on the specific cause.
Abrams CS. Thrombocytopenia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 175.
Wong EY. Why does my patient have thrombocytopenia? Hematol Oncol Clin N Am. 2012;26:231–252.
Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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