Platelets are an extremely important component of your blood, one that can help save your life. In layman’s terms, these are the clotting agents which thicken your blood and stop you from bleeding out due to cuts, scrapes, and other such things.
Today we are here to the answer this question: What does it mean when your platelet count is too low? Let’s get right to it.
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The number of platelets
Before we can find out what it means when you have a low platelet count, you probably need to know what the average number of platelets in your blood is on an ideal day.
Well, in humans, you should have anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets for every microliter of blood in your system.
This is the average, with most people being around the 300,000 mark. This is a very important number to keep track of. Any less than 150,000 or any more than 450,000 can, in fact, be very dangerous.
What do platelets do?
The reason why the number of platelets in your blood is so important is because of their function. If you did not already know, the function of platelets is to stop you from bleeding profusely. Whenever you get a cut or scrape, platelets will bind themselves to the breached walls of a blood vessel or artery.
They then change their shape in order to plug the hole, or in other words, they clot your blood, to stopping you from bleeding out.
Platelets are very effective at what they do, but even they have their limitations. A huge laceration on a big vessel or artery will not be closed by some platelets.
They can only bind themselves so well and thicken the blood so much in order to stop bleeding. They don’t too so well for massive cuts or severe injuries like stab or gunshot wounds.
Therefore, since their job is to stop you from bleeding, you need a decent amount of them in your blood. Not having enough platelets can lead to severe bleeding from cuts and scrapes where other people would barely shed a drop of blood.
A severely low platelet count can even cause spontaneous bleeding where there were no injuries present. On the other hand, having too many platelets means that your blood might clot up on its own, thus blocking veins and arteries, and even causing things like strokes.
Having too few or too many platelets can indeed be fatal.
Too few platelets – thrombocytopenia
So, when you do not have enough platelets in your blood, or in other words, a low platelet count, it is called thrombocytopenia. This condition of thrombocytopenia can range in severity from mild to extreme, with the most extreme cases being liable to bleed out on a daily basis from nothing more than simply being alive.
This is not something that you want to suffer from by any means, but unfortunately, there are plenty of cases of thrombocytopenia around the world. Since the average platelet count is 150,000, thrombocytopenia is any number under that.
Some people have fewer than 50,000 platelets per microliter of blood. For these people, profuse bleeding from even the smallest of cuts is a regular occurrence.
There are also very extreme cases where people can have as few as 10,000 platelets per microliter of blood. For these people, spontaneous bleeding from places that had no injuries is a regular occurrence, and this can take the form of both internal and external bleeding.
Rest assured that a low platelet count is a very serious issue, so you always want to make sure you are on point. Getting your blood work done at least once a year is never a bad idea.
Symptoms of a low platelet count
If you suspect that you may have a low platelet count, there are a few different telltale symptoms which will let you know that your count is low. These symptoms include the following.
- Red or brown bruises known as purpura
- A rash consisting of small purple dots known as petechiae
- Bleeding from the gums
- Overly heavy menstrual bleeding
- Bleeding from the rectum
- Blood present in the urine
- Blood present in the stool
- Excessive bleeding from small cuts
If you have a severely low count of platelets in your blood, there are more severe symptoms which you may experience. These symptoms include the following.
- Blood present in the urine
- Blood present in the stool
- Bloody vomit
- Spontaneous internal bleeding
- Bleeding in the brain (very rare)
If you experience any of these symptoms, especially those related to internal bleeding, you need to seek medical help immediately in order to remedy the situation, or at least to get it under control.
Causes of a low platelet count
There are various different things which can cause you to have a low platelet count. The causes of a low platelet count include the following things.
- Viral infections such as HIV, Epstein-Barr, and chicken pox
- Aplastic anemia
- Folate deficiency
- Iron deficiency
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Too much alcohol
- Cirrhosis of the liver
On that same note, platelets usually live in the bloodstream for 8 to 10 days, but there are things which can cause your body to destroy them too early.
Yes, your body destroys platelets, but this should not be before the 8-day mark after they were created. There are various things which can cause your body to prematurely destroy platelets. These things include the following.
- An enlarged spleen
- An autoimmune disorder
- A bacterial infection in the blood
- Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
- Hemolytic uremic syndrome
- Disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC)
- Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP)
You should consult with your physician at least once a year and if recommended, have a blood count done which will include a platelet account. This is even more important if you experience any other symptoms mentioned above.
Remember that this can be dangerous, so seeking treatment ASAP is necessary.