A high platelet count is when your blood contains more platelets than normal. If you’ve been told that you or a family member has high platelets, you’re probably wondering what exactly this means.
High platelets are tiny blood cells that help with blood clotting. A healthy person typically has between 150,000 and 450,000 platelets per a microliter of blood.
Your doctor may detect a high platelet count through a routine blood test. If your blood test indicates a high level of platelets, it is important to determine whether you have essential thrombocythemia or reactive thrombocytosis. Essential thrombocythemia is more likely to cause blood clots.
A high platelet count can be divided into two separate medical categories, primary or thrombocythemia, and secondary or reactive thrombocytosis.
The cause of high platelets is not known in primary thrombocythemia since it can occur as an independent condition.
Secondary thrombocytosis, on the other hand, can occur as the symptom of another condition or diseases such as cancer, infection, or anemia and is in many cases benign.
In many cases of a high platelet count, it does not produce specific symptoms. In others, the elevation of platelets levels can lead to the development of unnecessary and unwanted blood clotting in the body, which can cause a range of symptoms.
Primary thrombocythemia is also known as essential thrombocythemia. This rare disorder is caused when bone marrow produces too many platelets and causes unnecessary blood clotting.
Bone marrow is the spongy tissues located in your bones. It contains cells that produce white and red blood cells, as well as platelets.
White blood cells work to fight infection; red blood cells contain oxygen and nutrients, and platelets enable blood-clotting abilities.
Having a high platelet count will cause the spontaneous development of blood clots. In usual cases, your blood will clot to prevent blood loss following an injury.
People who have thrombocythemia, on the other hand, will form blood clots suddenly and for no verifiable reason.
People who have primary thrombocythemia can experience numbness, headaches, or dizziness in the lower and upper body. They also have an increased risk for serious complications such as a heart attack or stroke.
Primary thrombocythemia is most commonly found in women and people who are over the age of 50. However, conditions have also been known to affect those who are younger.
The diagnosis of a high platelet count can be made after a series of blood tests and physical examination.
The presence of a high platelet count is not typically associated with a medical emergency. However, some cases of high platelet levels can cause blood clotting or a stroke.
If a high platelet count is accompanied by confusion, changes in speech, seizures, dizziness, difficulty breathing, persistent headaches, or loss of consciousness (even for brief moments), seek medical care immediately (call 911).
Other symptoms may accompany high platelet levels. This could vary based on the presence of an underlying condition, disorder, or disease.
However, others who have a high platelet count may not experience any additional symptoms at all. In fact, the presence of a high platelet level may only be detected by a blood test.
People who have essential thrombocythemia have a much higher risk of blood clots and bleeding than those who have reactive thrombocytosis.
A person with a high platelet count may exhibit certain symptoms. General symptoms that could occur with high platelets may include:
- Persistent headaches
- Numbness of feet or hands
- General body weakness
High platelets can also be associated with bleeding. Abnormal bleeding symptoms include:
- Bleeding of gums and mouth
- Bloody stool (maybe tarry in texture, black, or red)
- Easy bruising and bleeding
High platelets can also cause blood-clotting symptoms. In patients with high platelet levels, extremities and the brain are common blood clot sites. Clots can also easily form in other organs.
Bloods clots that are found in the placenta often cause pregnancy loss in women who have primary thrombocythemia. Symptoms and signs of blood clotting, which can be serious and life-threatening include:
- Pain in neck, abdomen, or jaw
- Throbbing pain or intense burning in legs and arms
- Difficulty breathing
- Loss of consciousness and confusion (even for brief moments)
- Changes in speech
Other serious symptoms paired with high platelets can indicate life-threatening conditions. In cases where high platelets accompany symptoms of blood clotting, life-threatening conditions can occur that should be evaluated in an emergency setting.
If you or someone you are with has any of the following potentially life-threatening symptoms, seek medical care immediately.
- Slurred speech
- Shortness of breath
- Persistent headaches
- Difficult breath
- Loss of consciousness
While there isn’t a known cure for primary thrombocythemia, there are treatments that can help to relieve its dangerous symptoms.
Treatment options will vary from person o person. People with a history of blood clots and smokers may need medication in order to reduce a high platelets count; others may not need any treatment at all.
Because high platelets can incur because of serious diseases, failure to seek treatment for high platelet levels can result in permanent damage and serious complications.
When your underlying cause has been diagnosed or your treatment planned outlines, it is especially important to follow it exactly to reduce any risk of complications.