Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are a type of blood cells found in larger cells known as megakaryocytes. Platelets are extremely important for the normal functioning of the body, that’s as good as a medical fact. Why the importance? The importance is only because platelets or thrombocytes play pivotal roles in the clotting of blood. For an unperturbed process of blood clotting, a person’s platelet count should start off from 1, 50,000/ml of blood and stretch out to 4, 00,000/ml of blood. An abnormal fluctuation in the platelet count of a person will result in a condition known as thrombocytopenia. Thrombocytopenia, in a layman’s terms, is nothing but a low platelet count or a reduced number of platelets. This reduction can vary from a mild reduction, a moderate reduction to a severe reduction. A mild low platelet count will amount to 100,000 to 1 50,000 platelets/ml of blood, while a moderate low platelet count will amount to 50, 000 platelets/ml of blood. Anything below 50,000 platelets/ml of blood is considered a severe deficiency in the number of platelets. Dive deeper into this article to know more on the causes for low platelets.
Causes For Low Platelets Count
Decreased Platelet Production
A decrease in the number of platelets produced is usually blamed on a problem in the bone marrow, known as agranulocytosis. In a condition like this, the possibility of a disruption in the production of red blood cells and white blood cells cannot be ruled out too. This is mainly because of infections, mostly viral, that affect the bone marrow. Viral infections that can affect the bone marrow include varicella (chickenpox), rubella, hepatitis C, HIV, Epstein - Barr virus, and mumps. Apart from viral infections, chemotherapy drugs too can cause the suppression of bone marrow that will ultimately lead to thrombocytopenia. Other drugs like thiazide diuretics too can result in thrombocytopenia. Addiction to alcohol or an excessive consumption of the same can result in the toxicity of the bone marrow. A serious deficiency in folic acid and vitamin B12, without the question of doubt, will result in a decreased production of platelets. Cancers too, especially cancers of the bone marrow, blood and lymph nodes can be associated with the occurrence of thrombocytopenia.
Increased Platelet Consumption Or Destruction
An increase in the consumption or destruction of platelets can and will cause thrombocytopenia. This increase in consumption can be linked to both immune and non-immune related causes. Medications can result in an increase in platelet consumption. The perpetrators of the crime include sulfonamide antibiotics like quinidine, acetaminophen, carbamazepine, digoxin and carbamazepine. Heparin, a blood thinner, can instigate an immune response to platelets that can result in the rapid destruction of the same. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura or ITP indicates a decrease in platelet count due to an induced attack by the immune system. Organ transplantations and transfusion of blood can lead to disturbances in immunity, which can ultimately lead to thrombocytopenia. Platelet destruction can also be caused by rheumatologic conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and even autoimmune conditions. An injury to the blood vessels or an inflammation of the same can result in an increased consumption of platelets. Lastly, disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC), a rare but severe condition, can result in thrombocytopenia. DIC refers to overpowering effects of an infection, a trauma, pregnancy, or burns.
Splenic sequestration refers to the enlargement of the spleen. The enlargement of this organ can lead to a low platelet count; the same can be associated with a number of reasons too. When the spleen increases in size, it holds back more platelets than it should, this holding back or detainment is what results in thrombocytopenia. Thrombocytopenia due to the enlargement of the spleen can be linked to chronic liver diseases (cirrhosis) and blood cancers (leukemias or lymphomas).