Platelets are small segments of blood cells that help form clots to heal wounds and prevent further bleeding. Platelet disorders can occur if your body is producing too many or too few platelets.
Thrombocytopenia is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough platelets to help the blood clot. Although the direct cause of the disorder is still unknown, research shows that it is the result of the body’s immune system not functioning properly. The antibodies attack and destroy the blood platelets instead of attacking the infection. Thrombocytopenia can run in families or result from certain medications (chemotherapy or radiation) or medical conditions such as viral infections, severe bacterial infections, vitamin B12 deficiency, leukemia, or lymphoma. Some of the more common symptoms of thrombocytopenia include:
- Bleeding from gums or nose
- Blood in the urine or stool
- Red, flat spots on the skin the size of a pinhead
Treatment for thrombocytopenia depends on its severity. Steroids and other medications to increase platelet levels may be given following your treatment.
Thrombocytosis is a disorder in which the body produces too many platelets. An elevated platelet count can be temporary resulting from things such as excessive alcohol use, vitamin B12 deficiency, acute infection, or strenuous activity. High platelet counts can also be the first sign of cancer and other more serious conditions such as anemia and certain infectious diseases, such as connective tissue disorder, inflammatory bowel disease, and tuberculosis. Many people with thrombocytosis do not experience any symptoms, so the condition is not diagnosed until after a routine blood test. For those that do experience symptoms, a few of the more common symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Tingling in the hands and feet
Treatment for thrombocytosis depends on the cause. If it is the result of an underlying medical condition, then your physician will address the condition that is causing thrombocytosis. If it is primary thrombocytosis (meaning it is not caused from any underlying medical condition or medication) then certain medications can be taken to reduce platelet counts.