Thrombocytopenia (Low Platelet Count) (cont.)

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What are the symptoms of thrombocytopenia?

In many instances, thrombocytopenia may have no symptoms, especially if mild, and it can be detected only incidentally on routine blood work done for other reasons.

If thrombocytopenia is severe, for example less than 20 per micro liter, it can potentially manifest as increased bruising or bleeding when a person is cut or injured, or increased bleeding during menstrual period.

Spontaneous bleeding can also happen with severe thrombocytopenia (less than 10,000 to 20,000 platelets). This type of bleeding usually occurs under the skin or the mucus membrane (the inner lining of the oral cavity, gastrointestinal tract, or the nasal cavity).

Petechiae may be seen in patients with very low platelet counts. Petechiae are small (pin head size) red, flat spots seen under the skin on the dependent parts of the body because of increased pressure due to gravity, for example, on the lower legs. These happen because of bleeding out of the tiny blood vessels under the skin or the mucus membrane. Petechiae are generally not palpable or painful.

Other rashes or bruises seen in thrombocytopenia are called purpura, which are small, purple spots under the skin as a result of hemorrhage. These are typically greater than 3 millimeters in diameter and may represent a confluence of petechiae.

When should I seek medical care for thrombocytopenia?

If thrombocytopenia is detected on a routine blood work, it is generally addressed and investigated by the physician who orders the test. In people with known thrombocytopenia, follow-up care is decided based on the diagnosis and the severity.

People with thrombocytopenia are, in general, initially cared for by an internist or a family practice physician. Sometimes, consultation with a doctor who specializes in blood disorders (hematologist) is helpful for more thorough investigation or treatment.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2014

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