The production, function, and life-cycle of platelets in our body’s can easily vary on a day-to-basis. Changes in lifestyle, diet, medication, or medical conditions can easily affect the platelet count within our bodies.
Platelet count changes can also be hereditary or dependent on the development of an underlying disease.
Understanding what a platelet count is and why it is important can be useful in detecting a potentially dangerous situation, such as a drastic drop in platelets.
Low Platelet Count
A platelet count that is decreased is known as thrombocytopenia. This condition can vary from moderate to severe. The lower your platelet count is, the more severe your condition is.
This condition carries the risk of spontaneous bleeding in the mucous membranes (nose, genitourinary and gastrointestinal tract) and the skin. The most dangerous sites for bleeding are the eyes and central nervous system.
A low platelet count can be a temporary that lasts for just a few days, but it can also be chronic, depending on the condition’s cause.
Low platelet conditions typically improve when the underlying disorder is diagnosed and treated. Often these underlying conditions are the cause of thrombocytopenia. Other times this condition requires blood transfusions, surgery, or drugs, all of which will work to raise the platelet count within the body.
If you have been diagnosed with a low platelet count, your doctor may require changes in medication, diet, and lifestyle. He may also require that you monitor your platelet count on a daily basis to ensure that you don’t drop under an unsafe level.
Generally, a platelet count under 50,000 renders the individual at risk for internal bleeding.
Decrease in Platelet Production
Platelets that fluctuate under the average healthy human level (between 150,000 and 450,000 platelets per blood microliter) is often acquired from a disease, although it can also be innate.
Acquired decreases in platelet function can be caused by various factors that affect bone marrow. This includes:
- Intake of certain medications
- Tumor metastasis
- Ionizing radiation
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Viral infection
- Heavy alcohol consumption, especially for those who also have poor dietary practices
- Anemia derived from a lack of vitamin B12 and folic acid, and vitamin B9 in their diet
Increase in Platelet Consumption and Degradation
Other than decreases in the healthy production of platelets, some people can also experience a change in platelet count when platelet consumption or degradation has increased within the body.
In this condition, normal bone marrow function and production of platelets cannot make up for platelet loss. This is why there is a fall in the number of platelets in the body.
This abnormal condition can be either non-immune or immune. Non-immune types of thrombocytopenia include thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS), and intravascular coagulopathy.
Other factors that contribute to varying levels of platelet degradation:
- Platelet count may be slightly reduced during pregnancy
- Increased platelet consumption can be attributed to the creation of numerous blood clots found in circulation. This cause can be tissue damage, use of drugs, serious complications of pregnancy, severe viral or bacterial infections
- Abnormal functioning of the immune system is when the body mistakenly identifies normal cells and forms antibodies to destroy them. This creation of antibodies may be due to certain medications, destruction due to an autoimmune disease, or occur following a transfusion of platelets or blood
- Certain viruses, bacteria, alcohol and drugs can directly decompose and lower the platelet count
The spleen plays a vital role in our bodily defense against infections. However, it is possible for its function in blood cell storage to become impaired for a variety of reasons.
Impairment in the spleen can result in larger amounts of platelet capture or accumulation.
Typically, platelets make up a third of the blood cells that are found and stored within the spleen. An enlarged spleen however, can reach over 90% platelet levels.
The accumulation here in the spleen can decrease the overall platelet count found in the blood stream, although the life cycle remains at a normal level of 7 to 10 days.
Thrombocytopenia caused by splenomegaly doesn’t cause a high risk of bleeding. However, hypersplenism is often associated with liver cirrhosis, which is also associated with coagulation disorders, predisposing the patient to have an increased bleeding risk.
High Platelet Count
A rise in the overall platelet count detected in the body can often be attributed to a disorder related to the bone marrow. Conditions that affect bone marrow blood cells production can often cause a larger number of platelets to be produced and released into the blood stream.
Related: Symptoms of High Platelet Counts
This can also be a secondary condition as the body’s reaction to underlying diseases. When this disorder occurs at the bone marrow, it can lend to a larger production of platelets and increase the risk for thrombosis, which can be a life threatening disease.
Treatment for reactive thrombocytosis will focus around the disease, which is adversely causing the higher platelet count.
Generally, therapies that address the need of the underlying disease will resolve any abnormalities in a day-to-day platelet count.
This condition can be attributed to the body’s response to specific disease. In the presence of reactive thrombocytosis in the body, healthy platelet function is left unaffected.
Elevated platelet counts due to secondary conditions can occur due to:
- Increased levels of physical activity or exercise
- Post surgery
- Certain drug uses such as vincristine, tretinoin, and epinephrine
- Hemolytic anemia – due to red blood cell decomposition
- Anemia derived from iron deficiency
- Kidney diseases
- Allergic reactions
- Following the removal of the spleen
- Post menorrhagia
- Inflammatory diseases (inflammatory bowel disease, connective tissue disease, celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis)
- Inflammation and infection
Last but not least, this condition can also raise levels of platelet count within the body. Primary thrombocythemia abnormally creates extremely high levels of platelets.
The root cause of this disease remains unknown. Furthermore, this disease causes a disturbance in platelet function.
Due to the elevated number of platelets, there is a higher tendency for thrombosis. This condition can also be severe and result in a tendency toward various dangerous bleeding disorders.