Decrease (-) Restore Default Increase (+)
Bookmark and Share

Health Library

Multimedia Health Encyclopedia - Diseases

Search Health Information   
 

Thrombocytopenia

Definition

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.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Thrombocytopenia is often divided into three major causes of low platelets:

  1. Not enough platelets are made in the bone marrow
  2. Increased breakdown of platelets in the bloodstream
  3. Increased breakdown of platelets in the spleen or liver

Your bone marrow may not make enough platelets if you have:

  • Aplastic anemia
  • Cancer in the bone marrow such as leukemia
  • Cirrhosis (liver scarring)
  • Folate deficiency
  • Infections in the bone marrow (very rare)
  • Myelodysplasia
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency

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:

Symptoms

You may not have any symptoms. General symptoms include:

  • Bleeding in the mouth and gums
  • Bruising
  • Nosebleeds
  • Rash (pinpoint red spots called petechia)

Other symptoms depend on the cause.

Signs and tests

Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history and symptoms. The following tests may be done:

Other tests that may help diagnose this condition include:

Treatment

Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. In some cases, a transfusion of platelets may be required to stop or prevent bleeding.

Expectations (prognosis)

The outcome depends on the disorder causing the low platelet counts.

Complications

Severe bleeding (hemorrhage) is the main complication. Bleeding may occur in the brain or gastrointestinal tract.

Calling your health care provider

Call your healthcare provider if you experience unexplained bleeding or bruising.

Prevention

Prevention depends on the specific cause.

References

McMillan R. Hemorrhagic disorders: abnormalities of platelet and vascular function. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 175.


Review Date: 3/14/2012
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
adam.com
 

Medical Care

Cancer
Pregnancy & Prenatal Classes
Weight Loss
Orthopedics
Heart Disease
Neurology
Women's Health
More Medical Care

Locations

Hospitals
Immediate Care
Health Centers
Emergency Room
Doctors Offices
Specialists
Affiliate Hospitals

Patients and Visitors

MyChart
Pay Your Bill
Request an Appointment
Get Healthy
Support Groups
Fitness Groups
Mobile Applications
Clinical Trials
Online Nursery
Classes and Events
Send an eCard
Patient Stories
Places to Stay

About Us

Quality Report 
Careers
Ways to Help
Community Outreach
Contact Us
(502) 629-1234

Connect with us

© 2014 Norton Healthcare
Serving Kentucky and Southern Indiana