Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count)

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Author: Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH
    Siamak N. Nabili, MD, MPH

    Dr. Nabili received his undergraduate degree from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), majoring in chemistry and biochemistry. He then completed his graduate degree at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His graduate training included a specialized fellowship in public health where his research focused on environmental health and health-care delivery and management.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Thrombocytopenia (low platelet count) definition and facts

  • Thrombocytopenia or low platelet count is a lower than normal number of platelets (less than 150,000 platelets per microliter) in the blood.
  • Thrombocytopenia may be inherited or acquired when conditions occur, such as the use of certain drugs.
  • Causes of thrombocytopenia can be classified in three groups:
    • Diminished production (caused by viral infections, vitamin deficiencies, aplastic anemia, drug induced)
    • Increased destruction (caused by drugs, heparin [HIT], idiopathic, pregnancy, immune system)
    • Sequestration (caused by enlarged spleen, neonatal, gestational, pregnancy)
  • Thrombocytopenic symptoms may include:
    • Petechiae (superficial tiny areas of bleeding into the skin resulting in small reddish spots)
    • Fatigue
    • Purpura (easy or excessive bruising)
    • Prolonged bleeding cuts
    • Spontaneous bleeding from the gums or nose
    • Jaundice
    • Heavy menstrual bleeding that's unusual for the female
    • Blood in the urine or stools
    • Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)
    • Bleeding that will not stop
    • DVT (deep vein thrombosis)
  • Individuals should seek medical care if they have one or more these symptoms.
  • Doctors that may be consulted for thrombocytopenia include emergency medicine, internal medicine, hematologists, and immunologists.
  • Diagnosis of thrombocytopenia is confirmed by blood tests that determine platelet count.
  • Treatment of thrombocytopenia varies depending on the cause and the severity of the condition.
  • Complications of thrombocytopenia can be severe (organ damage and death).
  • Depending upon the cause, thrombocytopenia may be prevented. However, many causes may not be preventable.
  • If treated early and effectively, the prognosis for thrombocytopenia is usually good. However, if diagnosed later in the disease process, or if HIT is the cause, the prognosis decreases.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/1/2016

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