THROMBOCYTOPENIA

Thrombocytopenia is a condition wherein platelets (also called thrombocytes) are low in number, which can result in bleeding problems. It can also be a side effect of taking certain medications. It is more prevalent in children than adults, but it is still infrequent. In children, it usually disappears by itself. In many adults, it does not get better, but it often does not need any medication.

Causes

This condition may be due to trapped platelets. The spleen is the part of the lymphatic system found above the stomach under the ribs on the left side. It is a soft, spongy organ and is essential for maintaining body fluid balance. Usually, it filters or removes old or damaged blood cells from the bloodstream and also store red blood cells and platelets.

  • Decrease production of platelets– Megakaryocytes are large bone marrow cells, and it is the only one that is responsible for the production of platelets. Suppression of megakaryocytes or bone marrow suppression will decrease the production of platelets, leading to thrombocytopenia.
  • Chemotherapy– Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is an essential cause of thrombocytopenia. Bone marrow suppression (myelosuppression) is a common side effect of chemotherapy, as it develops tumours in the bone marrow, which increases the chances of anemia, thrombocytopenia, and neutropenia.
  • Alcohol consumption– People who abuse alcohol are at a high risk of hematological disorders. More than 80 grams of alcohol per day give toxic effects on bone marrow, red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and also produced nutritional deficiency that impairs the production and function of various blood cells.

SYMPTOMS

Bleeding either on the outside surface of the skin or inside the body, is the predominant symptom of thrombocytopenia. Other manifestations of thrombocytopenia include:

  • Bleeding that does not stop on its own
  • Internal bleeding, such as blood in the urine or stool
  • External bleeding into the skin
  • More massive bleeding during menstrual periods
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen spleen

When to consult a doctor

If your doctor thinks you may have thrombocytopenia, he or she will take your medical history and perform a physical exam. At the time of the physical exam, your doctor will check your skin for any signs of bleeding, small spots of blood (petechiae), or bruises (purpura or ecchymosis). He or she is going to examine your abdomen to determine if your spleen or liver is enlarged. Your doctor will order specific blood tests, plus a complete blood count and will check to see if your blood is clotting properly.

DIAGNOSIS

Your doctor will begin by asking you about your medical history. He or she will ask about:

  • Recent medical procedures or hospitalizations (people often get heparin in the hospital to prevent blood clots)
  • Whether you have received any blood transfusions
  • Current medications (including over-the-counter and herbal remedies)
  • How much alcohol you drink
  • Your diet
  • Recent infections or vaccinations
  • If you have any achy joints or rashes
  • If anyone in your family ever had low plateletlevels
  • If you are pregnant, your physician will want to know your due date.

Your doctor will examine you for specific signs of abnormal bleeding. These include bruises or blood spots in your skin. He or she also will feel your abdomen to determine whether your spleen is enlarged. The doctor will look for any signs of liver disease.

To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor will order a blood test. The blood test will measure the number of platelets in your blood. Additional blood tests will be ordered at the same time to help diagnose why you have thrombocytopenia.

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