Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Overview Symptoms

Low Platelet Count Overview

What is a low platelet count?
A person with a low platelet count has a disorder where there are not enough platelets in the blood to help the blood clot. Normally, there are between 150,000 and 450,000 platelets in each microliter (one millionth of a liter) of blood. If you platelet count is less than 150,000 per microliter, you are said to have thrombocytopenia, the medical term for a low platelet count. Platelets are essential for normal blood clotting. A severely lowered platelet count may result in spontaneous bleeding (such as subarachnoid hemorrhage), while a mildly low platelet count may cause no symptoms at all. There are a large number of conditions that can cause a low platelet count such as: autoimmune disease, cancer, bone marrow disease, and some infections. Some drugs, such as chemotherapy for cancer, commonly lower the platelet count in the bloodstream. Other causes include chronic alcohol abuse, vitamin B12 deficiency, folic acid deficiency, lupus, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, HELLP syndrome, hemolytic uremia, sepsis, and disseminated intravascular coagulation.

What are the symptoms of a low platelet count?
Symptoms of a low platelet count include excessive bruising, repeated nosebleeds, rectal bleeding, black stools, or a rash that looks like bruises or broken blood vessels in the skin.

How does the doctor treat a low platelet count?
The treatment of a low platelet count depends on the cause of the condition. A platelet transfusion may be necessary to stop or prevent bleeding. Treatment for low platelet count may also include corticosteroids, immunoglobulin therapy, platelet transfusion, Danazol, Desmopressin, and azathioprine.

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Last Updated: Aug 18, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Low Platelet Count References
  1. Hong MS, Amanullah AM. Heparin-induced thrombocytopenia: a practical review. Rev Cardiovasc Med. 2010 Winter;11(1):13-25. [20495512]
  2. Spiess BD. Platelet transfusions: the science behind safety, risks and appropriate applications. Best Pract Res Clin Anaesthesiol. 2010 Mar;24(1):65-83. [20402171]
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