The human body is mainly composed of blood. It is also one of the most intriguing and secretive substances known to man and captures the human imagination for most of its existence. It has also played a very crucial role in the development of many factors of our folklore, religion, and culture.
What exactly is blood? Blood is a fluid substance whose duty’s to carry nutrients and oxygen to all the tissues while shutting away all the metabolic waste such as the carbon dioxide. It is made up of water, cells, proteins, glucose, fats, hormones, vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
The bottom part of the blood is where the red blood cells (erythrocytes) would settle; the small layer which is in the middle made of leukocytes are the platelets; and then lastly, the plasma. These layers made up the blood 45 percent, less than 10 percent, and 55 percent by volume. All parts of the blood have its function and tasks to do. An abnormality found in the blood may cause serious problems which can be life-threatening. Many times, the underlying cause can be easily detected and curable, but there are some that signal more serious, such as low platelet count.
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What are Platelets?
Platelets are cells that flow into the blood and fix together when they recognize damage to the blood vessels. When you get cut or wounded, these platelets bind together to the site of the damaged vessel and at this moment causing a blood clot. One thing is sure about platelets – they stop your wound from bleeding.
Platelets are the smallest of all the blood cells, and they can be only seen with the aid of a microscope. From the name itself, they are shaped like a plate. A blood vessel will send a signal when these structures are damaged. When the platelets received the signal, they will immediately respond and take action by traveling to the area and transforming into their “lively” formation. Platelets make contact with the damaged blood vessels; platelets will then grow long tentacles and then look like an octopus or spider.
A normal platelet count that a human body should have ranged from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of the blood. In some cases where there are too many platelets that is more than 450,000 platelets, the condition is called, thrombocytosis; and having few platelets less than 150,000 is known as the thrombocytopenia. You can get your platelet count from a blood test known as the complete blood count (CBC).
Keeping Track of the Platelets
Very few platelets, too many platelets, related conditions such as strokes, blood clots, and heart attacks, abnormality functioning of the platelets can be hereditary. It is a good idea to alert and talk to the doctor when there’s a family member or a disease that runs into the family connection.
Although most people may feel fine, it is still important to let your doctor keep an eye on your blood platelets especially when you have a hereditary disease related to blood. The doctor will investigate whether or not you will need medications to reduce or add the functioning of your platelets. Keeping track of the platelet count is shown to be an advance preparation which prevents from future serious medical issues.
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Thrombocytosis or High Platelet Count
Thrombocytosis is a condition where the normal range of the platelets exceeds 450,000 platelet counts. Thrombocytosis can be observed in individuals without significant medical problems. Mild to moderate Thrombocytosis can be seen when chronic inflammation is present. In some cases, too many platelet counts can also signal a severe blood problem which is also known as the myeloproliferative disorder – an abnormality of the blood’s growth within the bone marrow. The doctor may be needed to perform further tests to find out the cause of the abnormality of the high platelet count.
This blood clotting disorder is a very rare blood clotting disorder which causes the bone marrow to produce too many platelets.
Bone marrow – is the sponge-like tissue inside the bones and consists of cells that produce:
- White blood cells (WBCs) – fight infections
- Red blood cells (RBCs) – carry nutrients and oxygen
- Platelets – enable blood clotting
A high platelet count can cause the blood clot to develop simultaneously. Normally, the blood begins to clot to prevent the body from a massive loss of blood after a cut or injury. People with primary thrombocythemia, conversely, the blood clots can form unexpectedly and for no apparent reason. Abnormal clotting of the blood is also dangerous. It may block the flow of blood to the liver, heart, brain and other vital organs of the body.
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Causes of Thrombocythemia
This medical condition occurs when the body produces too many platelets, which may lead to abnormal blood clotting. However, the exact or main cause of this condition is still unknown. According to experts, half of the people with this condition have a gene mutation in the JAK2 gene or the Janus kinase gene. The gene is the one responsible for making protein promotes the division and growth of cells.
When your platelet count is extremely high due to a certain condition or disease, it is called as a reactive or secondary thrombocytosis. The primary thrombocytosis is less common than the reactive thrombocytosis. Another form of this condition is the inherited thrombocythemia, which is very rare. Primary thrombocythemia is common to women and people over the age of 50. However, this condition can also affect youngsters.
Symptoms of Primary Thrombocythemia
Primary thrombocythemia commonly happens with no specific symptoms. However, a blood clot could be the first sign that something went wrong. Blood clotting can also develop anywhere in the human body, but they are more likely to form in the feet, brain or hands. The symptoms of a blood clot may differ depending on where the blood clot is located. Some of the symptoms include:
- A headache
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Change in vision
- Chest pain
- Throbbing and burning pain in hands and feet
- Slightly enlarged spleen
In some rare cases, this condition can cause bleeding. It may also occur in the form of:
- Easy bruising
- Bleeding from the mouth or gums
- Bloody urine
- Bloody stool
Possible Complications of High Platelet Count
For women who have this condition, and currently taking a birth control pills, have a higher risk of blood clots. This condition is also dangerous for women who are pregnant. The clot located in the placenta can also lead to miscarriage or fetal development.
A blood clot can also cause a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). Symptoms of stroke include:
- Weakness in the face or limbs
- Blurred vision
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty in speaking
People who are suffering from this circumstance are also prone to heart attack. The reason is that clots block the blood flow to the heart. Symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Clammy skin
- Pain that extends to the back, shoulder, jaw or arm
- Squeezing pain in the chest that lasts for few minutes
Although it is very common, a very high platelet count could also result in:
- Bleeding of the gums
- Blood in the stool
If you have these symptoms, immediately call your doctor or go to the hospital right away:
- Heavy bleeding
- Blood clot
- Heart attack
All of these conditions are well thought-out as medical emergencies, and it requires immediate treatment.
Primary Thrombocythemia Diagnosis
Thrombocythemia is diagnosed through performing a physical examination and asking about the medical history. When talking to the doctor, mention as well any blood transfusions, medical procedures, and infections you had in the past. Tell the doctor about any over-the-counter medications and prescriptions you are presently taking.
If this condition is suspected, the doctor will run several blood tests to confirm the diagnosis. The blood tests may include:
- Blood smear – examines the condition of the platelets
- Complete blood count (CBC) – measures the number of platelets in the blood
- Genetic testing – determine whether you have inherited the condition which causes to high platelet count
Another diagnosis may also include bone marrow aspiration to determine the platelets with the aid of a microscope. The procedure includes taking a sample of bone marrow tissue in a liquid form. It is commonly extracted from the pelvis or breastbone. Patients will likely receive a diagnosis of the condition if the doctor could not find the cause for the high platelet count.
The treatment plan for this condition will depend on several factors, including the risk of developing blood clots. You need to undergo treatment if you don’t have additional risk factors or symptoms. As an alternative, the doctor may opt to monitor the condition carefully. Treatment may also be suggested if you:
- are a smoker
- are over age 60
- have other conditions, such as cardiac disease or diabetes
- have a history of blood clots or bleeding
The treatments may include:
- OTC low-dose aspirin – reduces blood clotting
- Prescription medications – lower the risk of blood clotting
- Plateletpheresis – removes platelets directly from the blood
There is no known way to avoid the condition. However, if you have received a diagnosis with the primary thrombocythemia, there are some concerns you need to do to lower the risk of having serious complications.
The first step to do to manage blood clots is to control the blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions like diabetes which can help the risk of blood clots. You can do this by performing regular exercise, eating a balanced diet which mainly consists of vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains. It is also important to quit smoking as it increases the risk of having blood clots.
To further reduce the risk of serious complications, you should:
- Avoid cold medications which increase bleeding
- Take all medications as prescribed
- Avoid contact activities or sports which may also increase the risk of bleeding
- Report abnormal symptoms or bleeding to the doctor
Before any surgical or dental procedures, make sure to tell the doctor or dentist about any medication you have to lower your platelet count. People with the history of blood clots and smokes may need medications to reduce their platelet count. Others may also need treatment.
A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets. Having more than 450,000 is a condition which is called as the thrombocytosis and having less than 150,000 platelet count is known as the thrombocytopenia. You can get to know your platelet count through the test called, complete blood count (CBC). The normal platelet count circulating in your body should be between the above ranges of platelet count. If it is very low or too high, then there must be something wrong with your platelet count, and it needs immediate attention.
Platelets are very vital in ensuring our survival. It is essential to understand and be educated about the consequences of either low or high platelet count as depending on the accuracy of the readings provided; you may be distress from severely insufficient platelet count. The lower number of platelet count can be a clear indication of medical conditions like thrombocytopenia or anemia. Certain medications which commonly use is commonly known to reduce the platelet count.
On the other hand, an elevated platelet count could be an indication of having thrombocytosis – a condition where people suffer from irregular blood clotting. An abnormality with the platelet count, either high or low, is not likely to show any symptoms until some blood loss occurs. While the production of platelets occurs in the bone marrow, the organ spleen is also responsible for the removal from the blood and manage the production of platelets in the blood. It is, therefore, vital that both these organs are properly working.
When it comes to the prevention, a healthy balanced diet could greatly help. Foods such as oats, cabbage, wheat and other that are rich in gluten should be avoided. Increase the intake of food which are rich in omega three acids, for they help build up low platelets and boost the immune system. Organic tomatoes are also considered to be rich in antioxidants that are usually found in other foods and help balance the platelet levels.