Platelets are a very interesting component of our blood. Without them, we literally could not survive.
There is a lot to know about platelets, things such as what they are, what they look like, what they do, and how many of them you are supposed to have in your body.
Platelets are extremely important to our health and well-being, so knowing all about them is not going to hurt. We are here to examine these platelets with the main goal of answering the question of what do platelets do?
What are platelets?
Platelets are one of the three main components of your blood, with the other two components being white blood cells and red blood cells. Platelets are created by your bone marrow, just like your other blood cells.
Platelets are absolutely essential to keeping you alive, and having either too few or too many of them can be disastrous, to say the least. On an interesting side note, mammals are the only animals that have platelets.
What do platelets do?
In layman’s terms, platelets are the things in your blood which act as a barrier towards you bleeding out in the event of a cut, or even just from bleeding spontaneously in general.
The job of the platelet is to bind to the walls of a ruptured vein or artery when you are injured. These platelets bind to the walls of the veins as well as to each other, thus forming something like a wall or barrier between your veins and the outside world.
In other words, their job is to coagulate your blood, make it thick, and therefore, stop it from leaking out of you. Generally speaking, the job of your platelets is to keep your blood exactly where it is supposed to be, on the inside of your body.
What do platelets look like?
Platelets, just as their name implies, look like little plates. They are extremely small and thin when they are not doing anything. However, when you are bleeding they change their shape, becoming enlarged in order to deal with the leak at hand.
What is a normal platelet count?
Another important thing to know about platelets is how many of them you are supposed to have in your body. Yes, the number of these little microscopic things is indeed very important to how effective they are at their job.
Generally speaking, a healthy adult should have anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 per microliter of blood. This is the average, with the norm resting around 300,000. However, there are many factors which can contribute to an increased or decreased amount of platelets.
Having too many platelets in your blood can happen, but it is fairly rare. The real problem is having too few platelets, a condition which is referred to as thrombocytopenia.
Having too many platelets in your blood can be quite dangerous, as this can cause spontaneous clotting and coagulation, leading to blood clots in the lungs, veins, and even clots in your brain, otherwise known as a stroke.
On the other hand, having too few platelets can lead to excessive bruising, excessive bleeding, extended healing periods for bruises and cuts, bleeding of the gums, nosebleeds, and excessive menstrual bleeding.
This is the case when you have fewer than 100,000 platelets per microliter of blood. This can be even more severe, with some people having fewer than 20,000 or even 10,000 platelets per microliter of blood.
This can lead to bleeding into the urine and stool, stomach bleeds, and spontaneous external bleeding. In very severe cases this can lead to bleeding out, and thus death.
Causes of low platelet count
There are various issues which can cause thrombocytopenia, the low count of platelets in your blood. Let’s just quickly go through some of the most common causes right now. As you are about to find out, the list of causes for a low platelet count is quite long.
- Iron deficiency
- Zinc deficiency
- Vitamin K deficiency
- Folic acid deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Autoimmune disorders
- Bacterial infections of the blood
- Epstein Barr
- Aplastic anemia
- Toxic chemicals
- Cirrhosis of the liver
- Enlarged spleen
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome
- Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC)
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)
- Drugs and alcohol
- Too much stress
- Not enough sleep
Remedy for low platelet count
If you are not suffering from a bacterial infection, radiation, chemotherapy, exposure to toxic chemicals, leukemia, or other cancers, there may be a simple remedy to increase the number of platelets in your blood. If the solution is simple, it might be one of the following ones.
One of the most important things you can try doing to increase your platelet count is to eat foods rich in vitamins and minerals. These things are essential to platelet production. You should try eating foods rich in vitamins B12, B9 and K, iron, zinc, and calcium.
Simply put, you need to get enough sleep. All of the functions our bodies have need sleep to work properly. People die without enough sleep, which is what happens when all other functions shut down. One of these functions is the creation of blood platelets.
Stress is proven to have physical effects on the human body, not just mental effects. Some studies have shown that stress can, in fact, contribute towards a lower platelet count. Everyone is different, so your method of relieving stress might be different from everyone else out there. The point is that reducing stress might help.
Drugs and alcohol
We really should not have to mention this, but drugs and alcohol are bad, plain and simple. They have tons of negative effects on the human body, with decreased platelet production being one of them.
To repeat, platelets are created via your bone marrow and their job is to stop you from bleeding to death in the event of a cut or other injury. They are crucial to our well-being, so learning what they are all about is definitely a good idea.