What are Platelets?

Platelets, key components in our blood, are produced within the bone marrow and have a lifespan of about 10 days in our bloodstream. Their primary role is to halt bleeding by forming clots.

Thrombocytopenia Explained

Thrombocytopenia is a medical condition characterised by abnormally low levels of platelets (below the normal range of 150,000 to 400,000 platelets per microliter of blood). This condition can arise due to various factors, including bone marrow abnormalities and diseases that diminish platelet counts, such as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Recognising the Symptoms of Thrombocytopenia

Symptoms of thrombocytopenia can be subtle and may include:

  • Small, red or purple spots on the skin, often without any preceding injury.
  • Bleeding gums.
  • Presence of blood in urine or stools.
  • Unexplained bleeding from different body parts.

Causes Behind Thrombocytopenia

Several factors can lead to thrombocytopenia:

  • Reduced production of platelets in the bone marrow.
  • Elevated breakdown of platelets in the body.
  • Autoimmune diseases that target and destroy platelets.

Diagnosing Thrombocytopenia

Thrombocytopenia is primarily diagnosed through a complete blood count (CBC), which assesses the platelet count along with the examination of platelet shape and size. Other symptoms may also indicate a low blood platelet count.

Recommendations to Mitigate Thrombocytopenia

To prevent the condition from worsening, consider the following guidelines:

  • Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and avoid flossing.
  • Postpone any dental work or surgeries until you consult your doctor.
  • Steer clear of heavy lifting, rigorous sports, and activities that pose injury risks.
  • Avoid walking barefoot to reduce your injury chances.
  • If balance is an issue, ensure support while walking.
  • Use electric razors instead of traditional ones for nail care and shaving.
  • Exercise caution with sharp objects like knives and scissors.
  • Gently blow your nose and avoid forceful sneezing.
  • Prevent constipation by staying hydrated.

For critical cases with platelet counts below 20,000 per microliter:

  • Bed rest is crucial, with caregiver assistance for all activities.
  • Avoid brushing teeth and exerting pressure during bowel movements and sneezing.

Understanding the Risks and Complications

The most severe aspect of thrombocytopenia is the risk of bleeding in vital organs, potentially leading to life-threatening conditions such as brain hemorrhages or gastrointestinal bleeding.

When to Consult a Doctor

Immediate medical attention is necessary if you experience:

  • Bleeding from the mouth, gums, nose, or vagina.
  • Vomiting blood.
  • Reddish or purplish skin spots without injury.
  • Bleeding under the skin.
  • Blood in urine or stools.
  • Persistent headaches, blurred vision, or abdominal pain.

Important Information

  • A platelet count below 50,000 per microliter is abnormal and necessitates careful monitoring.
  • A count below 20,000 per microliter significantly increases the risk of spontaneous bleeding.