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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:
Your bone marrow may not make enough platelets if you have:
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. General symptoms include:
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 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.
Calling your health care provider
Call your healthcare provider if you experience unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Prevention depends on the specific cause.
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.
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