The human body is a magnificent thing. Think about it for a second: As you sit here and read this, there are millions of cells flowing through your body, circulating blood and oxygen. Even now, your brain is able to identify feelings and sensations through the body, and there are cells at work healing small cuts or bruises that you may have acquired during your day. In order to keep your body working in tip-top shape it is crucial that you take the time to understand how it works and what you can do to ensure protection for years to come.
One group of incredible cells in the body are the platelets. Platelets can be lifesavers, or they could cause clots that could be life threatening. They are important for a variety of reasons. Today we are going to learn how they work, how long they live, and how you can make sure you have enough in your body.
What are Platelets?
Platelets are extremely small cells that you can only see under a microscope. They are circular shaped, like small discs hurling through the body through the bloodstream. Platelets are directly linked to the megakaryocyte cells in the body. So, what do they do? Platelets are the direct cause of blood clots in the body, and they will help heal open wounds as soon as they happen. They circulate through the body via the bloodstream to any area that is injured or damaged.
For an example, if you are using a knife and accidently cut yourself, your open wound will start bleeding. This is a siren for the platelets and they will race directly to the wound to start forming a clot over the injury. This will cause less bleeding and will help heal the wound faster. Once the bleeding stops, the wound heals over time. This is due to the platelets hard at work first stopping the bleeding with a clot, and then healing the tissue, like skin, by the clot gradually shrinking over time, pulling the edges of the wound together.
When you cut yourself, or any tissue is damaged on the body, chemicals are released that directly activate the platelets. Instead of a circular shape, they grow long tentacles and become very sticky. These cells clump together and stick to the tissue that needs to be mended.
How Long Do They Live For?
Platelets unfortunately do not live forever, and the average lifespan is just 8 to 12 days. However, this is not something to be sad about because the body is actively producing them all the time. Did you know that the average person has between 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter in their bloodstream at one time?
Even outside of the body, platelets can survive; when you donate blood, sometimes the blood is divided into components, such as plasma, packed red blood cells, and platelets, which can be given to a patient who needs a specific component. They have to be stored at a cool temperature and are constantly monitored. If you ever get a chance, we recommend taking a look at platelets under a microscope, so you can see for yourself the amazing things happening inside your body.
Low Platelets or Too Many
Even though platelets are an incredible thing, they can lead to complications in the body. If you have less than 150,000 platelets per microliter in the blood, this is called thrombocytopenia. Cases of this condition can stretch from very mild to severe, depending on how you contracted it and the factors behind it. Many people get thrombocytopenia simply through their genetic makeup, but it can also be contracted through viruses or conditions such as pregnancy, AIDS, or cancer.
So, what are the symptoms? If you do not have enough platelets in the body this leads to unwanted bleeding. It can lead to you having severe menstrual bleeding cycles (for women), or if you cut yourself by an accident the bleeding will not stop. Other symptoms are severe nosebleeds as well or bleeding of the gums while brushing your teeth, or excessive bruising over your body. If you are noticing any of these, it is important to go to a doctor right away for a diagnosis and treatment into ways you can go about increasing your platelet count.
Suggested: Do Platelet Levels Vary Wildly?
The good news is there are so many ways you can do this. There are even medications that you can take that will have a direct link to the replenishment of platelets in the blood stream. Other people go the steroid route and are injected in the hopes of raising the platelet level. In the severest of cases, usually connected to cancer, there can be surgeries done to help with the raising of platelets.
Did you know that the papaya plant and fruit have a direct link to the creation of platelets? In many cultures, papaya is a natural remedy that you can ingest that will help with your platelet count. You can either put it in smoothies or grind the leaves and add it to the food you eat, but we warn you it tastes quite bitter.
At the same time, you can overproduce platelets in the body and this is also a danger. As they are the creators of blood clots, they can over produce and that can lead to clots in the lungs or heart arteries, or even the brain, which lead to heart attacks and strokes. This is why it is important to consult a doctor if you notice any unusual symptoms; the quicker treatment is implemented, the likelier the chance of recovery. If a heart attack or symptoms of a stroke occur, there are drugs that can immediately be administered to reverse the clotting and prevent permanent damage.
As we stated before, the human body is incredible. We have cells can form a clot over an injury when we cut ourselves. Platelets are incredible but do have to be monitored in order to avoid complications. If you even notice small symptoms, or it seems to run in your family, we urge you to get it checked out by a medical professional as soon as you can.