Blood is an interesting thing, as is the human body in general. Blood keeps us alive; it delivers oxygen to our organs and muscles, and it supplies us with the proteins and nutrients that we need to survive.
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There is a lot going on with blood, with way too many components and functions for us to cover here today.
However, there is one aspect which we would like to look at, which are the platelets in your blood, or specifically, why platelets are important. If you do not know what platelets are right now, you will in a few minutes.
You might think it sounds dull and boring, but rest assured that platelets can and do save lives. So, how do platelets save lives?
What are platelets?
Related topic – What do platelets do?
Platelets are also known as thrombocytes, which literally means “blood clot cell” and they are a specific component of blood. An interesting thing about platelets is that they actually have no cell nucleus.
Instead, they are minuscule fragments of cytoplasm which originate in the megakaryocytes, which is a specific part of your bone marrow.
Platelets are produced in your bone marrow, just like red and white blood cells. These are unactivated platelets that are lens-shaped structures that float around in your bloodstream.
It is estimated that platelets can survive and circulate throughout the bloodstream for 8 to 10 days after they have been produced in the bone marrow.
As the name implies, platelets look like small disc-shaped plates, but unlike your dinner plates, these can only be seen under a microscope. Interestingly enough, platelets are found only in mammals.
Human biology is very complicated, however, the main takeaway here is that platelets are a specific component of your blood which are derived from bone marrow and are lens-shaped.
In case you were wondering, the normal platelet count in your average human being is anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets for every microliter of blood in your system. So, what do these platelets do and why are they so important?
Why platelets are important – What do they do?
The reason these platelets are so important, as you may have guessed from the name, is that they clot your blood when something goes wrong. In other words, platelets are clotting agents which thicken your blood.
The purpose of this is to stop you from bleeding to death in the case of an injury. When you get a cut or a big gash, these platelets automatically react in order to thicken the blood at the scene of the injury, clot the blood, and stop you from losing too much of it.
In layman’s terms, these platelets plug up leaks that spring up in the human body from time to time. Whether it is a paper cut, a scrape, a gash, or anything else that makes you bleed, platelets will be there to patch you up.
Platelets are only able to clot the blood and plug the hole, so to speak, if the hole is not too large and if the blood is not flowing too fast.
A huge gash right through your femoral artery is not going to be plugged by platelets because of the large size of the cut and the very fast moving nature of the blood in the femoral artery.
Generally speaking, the main purpose of these platelets is to stop you from bleeding out.
Your platelet count
The number of platelets present in your blood is extremely important. Having too few platelets can be extremely dangerous, as can having too many.
You might think that the more platelets you have the better, but this is not necessarily the case. Bigger is not always better. Like we said before, the average platelet count in the human body is going to be anywhere from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets for every microliter of blood.
If you have fewer than 50,000 platelets per microliter of blood, the risk of your bleeding out is much more serious; if you don’t have enough platelets, they cannot do an adequate job at plugging those leaks.
Once the number reaches a certain low, they just can’t keep up anymore, thus making even the smallest of cuts bleed quite severely.
People with a very low platelet count are at risk of bleeding out from cuts and injuries that in people with normal platelet counts would be minor at most.
People who have a platelet count of 20,000 or less are known to bleed spontaneously. This could be from the mouth, eyes, ears, nose, other orifices, or even from cuts that seem to have healed a long time ago.
This can also go the other way. Having too many platelets in your system can be just as dangerous, if not more dangerous.
Some people have a platelet count of anywhere from 500,000 to 1,000,000; 500,000 is not too bad, but any more than that and you risk your blood clotting inside of your veins and arteries, thus causing blockages, strokes, and other such things.
As you can see, there is a whole lot going on here with these platelets. In layman’s terms, platelets are little disc-shaped blood cells derived from bone marrow.
When you have a cut, they rush to the scene of the cut, bind themselves to the walls of the vessel or artery, and begin joining with other platelets to form a clot, thus plugging the hole and preventing you from bleeding out.
It’s quite an interesting phenomenon no doubt. However, you do need to remember that having too few or too many platelets can be dangerous, so get yourself checked out.