Platelet is one of the major components of the blood. It is a colorless particle without a nucleus that looks like a disc when in rest but automatically spreads its tentacles when a person is wounded to form a clot. It has a significant contribution when an injury occurs because it prevents the blood from flowing out of the body.
They may be one of the tiniest elements in the body, but they play a significant role in minimizing the risk of excessive bleeding. They block the blood from flowing out to prevent blood loss. When these blood clots are no longer needed, the platelets will then dissolve them to stop the infection or bacteria from residing in the affected surface.
Aside from these benefits, the platelets are also responsible for maintaining the proper lining of our blood vessels, which are only protected by smooth muscles. Without it, the vasoconstriction may stay for a more extended period during the injury. If it happens, the mechanisms of the body will not react, causing complications to the human body.
Once the blood vessels get damaged, the platelets will extend its tentacles to adhere to the wall of these vessels to draw them together. The other platelets will also plug as soon as they receive the chemical signals sent to them by the other platelets that are near to the damaged area. This activity is called platelet plug, which is an essential factor to prevent the bleeding. Furthermore, the platelets and other blood cells seal the broken blood vessels.
With these benefits in mind, it is, therefore, essential to take care of these helpful part of our body. However, there are certain cases that the person may suffer from low platelet count despite the effort they do to maintain their health.
Causes of low platelet count
A lot of factors contribute to the low platelet count. Some of them are due to the lack of care f the person to his body. Sometimes, we unconsciously do some things that harm us. Other reasons could be due to unavoidable situations like having a disease.
Generally speaking, the low platelet count occurs when the bone marrow is not producing enough amount of platelets. The average platelet count an individual should have is between 150,000 to 450,000 per microliter of blood. A blood count lesser than this one will result in a condition called thrombocytopenia.
If the bone marrow is not producing enough platelets, it may be due to the following factors:
One of the types of cancer called leukemia is one contributing factor to the low platelet count. A person undergoing chemotherapy is at high risk of low platelet count. This process, as well as radiation, can damage the stem cells as well as the bone marrow. It is in the bone marrow where the platelets are produced.
Since the environment nowadays is polluted, anyone is prone to many diseases. Aside from that, chemicals such as pesticides and arsenic can prevent the proper production of platelets. These substances can damage our cells even if we can only inhale them.
Aplastic anemia may be a rare type of disease, but it can cause a serious complication when it occurs. This blood disorder can cause the bone marrow to stop producing platelets and new blood cells.
Many types of drugs can slow the production of new blood cells. Some of them are chloramphenicol, aspirin, ibuprofen, and diuretics.
Some of the most common types of airborne diseases and illnesses can also affect the production of platelets and blood cells. They include Epstein-Barr virus, rubella, mumps, parvovirus, and chickenpox. Therefore, you have to expect a low blood count whenever you experience these conditions. Even a person who has AIDS is at risk of developing a low platelet count.
Those who consume alcoholic drinks heavily are most likely to have low platelet count. It is also more risky for them if they seldom eat foods that boost the production of platelets or blood cells such as iron and folate.
Sometimes, the bone marrow has the capability to create enough platelets. However, the body, specifically the immune system, only destroys them before they are developed or used. It is also vital to note that this condition can be inherited from your parents. This condition may be due to the following factors.
Since the body has protective mechanisms that fight the foreign materials that they can’t recognize, it can get confused whenever a formulation of a particular drug enters it. Therefore, it will react to the substance which can lead to low production of platelets. Antibiotics can cause this condition because of its content sulfa, which can trigger the body to try to eliminate it.
The quinine is another substance that can cause a low production of platelets. It is mostly found on tonic water and even on the nutritional products. It is why you must be careful and seek for doctor’s advice if you are planning to take some over the counter drugs or health supplements. Medicines for seizures like rifampin, vancomycin, and Dilantin are other significant contributors to the low production of platelets.
Even some of the medicines which we think are helpful to prevent blood clots are also culprits. One of them is the Heparin. If the immune system reacts to it, this substance will not only reduce the number of platelets, but it can also cause a blood clot, a condition called heparin-induced thrombocytopenia or HIT.
If the person suffers from this condition, his immune system will react to the substance contained by heparin. This activity will also damage the protein that nourishes the platelets. Due to this reaction, the platelets will receive the signal and they will in turn from blood clots.
Sometimes, the immune system will most likely to attack the healthy cells in the body. It can even affect the platelets, reducing them in numbers. Therefore, even if the bone marrow is making enough of them, the immune system can’t recognize them as vital elements of the body. It can occur for persons who have a condition called immune thrombocytopenia or ITP. It causes the immune system to destroy the cells and platelets. Sometimes, it will attack the bone marrow causing it not to produce platelets.
An infectious disease can be poisonous to the body. As a result, the platelets do not reach its developing stage after they are produced. The viruses like cytomegalovirus and mononucleosis can prevent them from growing because they are already damaged before it happens.
Pregnant women are prone to having thrombocytopenia especially when it is almost a period of their delivery. Researchers still conduct an ongoing evaluation to know the exact reason why it is occurring.
Some surgical operations use machines that can cause damage to the platelets and other kinds of cells in the body. An example of this is blood vessel grafts and bypass surgery.
The thrombocytopenia may also happen if the spleen stores a significant amount of platelets. It is normal for it to carry about ⅓ of platelets. However, it can exceed this level if the spleen is enlarged. As a result, there is not enough of them circulating in the blood. It is an abnormal condition commonly caused by cancer or cirrhosis.
The patient is also going to have a low platelet count if he suffers from myelofibrosis, which a bone marrow condition. It allows this body part not to work correctly to make enough platelets.
Symptoms of a low platelet count
A low platelet count can have mild to severe symptoms. No matter what the condition is, it is essential to seek for doctor’s advice so a life-threatening problem can be avoided. Make sure not to ignore any kind of symptoms when they persist because they can lead to complications. A mild occurrence can become worse if not treated immediately.
Bleeding is one of the symptoms that can be seen in patients with low platelet count. Take note that this condition can occur internally or externally. Bleeding inside your body can cause blood clot which can then block the blood from circulating. External bleeding, on the other hand, could happen either on the surface or underneath your skin and blood can flow excessively, leading to blood loss.
It is something you should not take for granted because it can exist in any part of your body. You may suspect if you have external bleeding if you can see some red or purple bruises on some parts of your body. You may also see some purple or red dots on your skin, which is a condition called petechiae.
A nosebleed may also occur in some cases. It can even happen even if you brush your teeth and damage your gums. For women, a heavy menstrual flow may also occur. Some dark red blood can also be found on the urine, stool, or rectum.
The thrombocytopenia can also cause a headache, dizziness, and confusion. These conditions are most likely to happen even in mild cases. A severe flow of blood can also make you feel weak and can lead to neurological problems.
As soon as the doctor see these symptoms, he is going to do a blood test to determine your platelet count. He will also check if your blood is clotting properly. An ultrasound may also be needed to verify your spleen to see if an enlargement occurs. It will allow him to find the appropriate treatment for your condition.
During worst cases, the person who has severe bleeding may need a blood transfusion. It is done to replace the blood that flows out from his body, but this time, he will be given healthy platelets. If the symptom is caused by reaction to medicine, the doctor will have to replace his prescription.
Sometimes, a steroid is given to patients to slow the body from destructing the platelets and other blood cells. Several treatments have also been done to save the lives of people who have severe symptoms of thrombocytopenia. The doctor may require the removal of the spleen if the problem is due to its enlargement. However, it is only done when the medicine is not effective, and several medications just cause the condition to get worse.
What can be done
You must avoid taking medicines that may affect the production of your platelets. If unsure about the product, it is better to seek a doctor’s advice. If the thrombocytopenia already occurs, you must inform him if you are taking any medicine.
Don’t join any activity that can cause injury, wound, or cut. Also, make sure that you take safety precautions whenever it is unavoidable to use knives and other sharp objects. A slight injury can cause bleeding, so it is essential always to take care everytime you perform some activities like driving.
Aside from the medicine prescribed to you by the doctor, it is also essential to eat nutritious foods especially those that are high in iron, folate, and vitamin B12. These elements can boost the production not just of your platelets but your whole blood, too. They can also help you recover fast if you have undergone a surgical procedure or blood transfusion due to thrombocytopenia.
In case you have undergone a spleen removal, make sure to inform your doctor if you have a fever or any symptom that causes some complications. It may happen because your body is prone to infections and virus after the surgical operation. Your body is yet on the recovery stage and is not strong enough to fight harmful elements.
Understanding the function and benefits of your body organs allows you to take care of yourself even more. Any missing element or malfunctioning organ in the body can lead to life-threatening problems. It is, therefore, vital to start the best health practices through your simple ways. In this way, you may prevent the occurrence of a disease.