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Thrombocytopenia is any disorder in which there is an abnormally low amount of platelets. Platelets are parts of the blood that help blood to clot. This condition is sometimes associated with abnormal bleeding.
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. The most common example is chemotherapy treatment.
Disorders that involve the breakdown of platelets include:
Other symptoms may be present as well, depending on the cause of the condition. Mild thrombocytopenia can occur without symptoms.
Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. In some cases, a transfusion of platelets may be required to stop or prevent bleeding.
The outcome depends on the disorder causing the low platelet counts.
Severe bleeding (hemorrhage) is the main complication. This can include:
Call your healthcare provider if you experience unexplained bleeding or bruising.
Prevention depends on the specific cause.
McMillan R. Hemorrhagic disorders: abnormalities of platelet and vascular function. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 179.
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