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Definition Return to top
Thrombocytopenia is any disorder in which there are not enough platelets. Platelets are cells in the blood that help blood to clot. This condition is sometimes associated with abnormal bleeding.
Causes Return to top
Thrombocytopenia is often divided into three major causes of low platelets:
Disorders that involve low production in the bone marrow include:
Use of certain drugs may also lead to a low production of platelets in the bone marrow, although this is rare.
Disorders that involve the breakdown of platelets include:
Symptoms Return to top
Other symptoms may be present as well, depending on the cause of the condition. Mild thrombocytopenia can occur without symptoms.
Exams and Tests Return to top
Complete blood count (CBC) shows low number of platelets. Blood clotting studies (PTT and PT) are normal.
Other tests that may help diagnose this condition include:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. In some cases, a transfusion of platelets may be required to stop or prevent bleeding.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome depends on the disorder causing the low platelet counts.
Possible Complications Return to top
Severe bleeding (hemorrhage) is the main complication. This can include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call your healthcare provider if you experience unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Prevention Return to top
Prevention depends on the specific cause.
References Return to top
Goldman L. Ausiello D. Cecil Textbook of Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders; 2007:1291-1299.Update Date: 8/18/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and James R. Mason, MD, Oncologist, Director, Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program and Stem Cell Processing Lab, Scripps Clinic, Torrey Pines, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.