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What could a low white blood cell and platelet count mean?

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Quick Answer

A low white blood cell count and low blood platelet count can mean a patient has myelodysplastic syndrome, according to the MDS Foundation and Mayo Clinic. MDS is a group of disorders of the bone marrow.

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Full Answer

When a person has MDS, her bone marrow does not produce enough mature, healthy blood cells or blood platelets, says the MDS Foundation. These blood components do not enter the bloodstream and accumulate in the bone marrow, or they have an unnaturally short life-span. The blood cells that do enter the bloodstream are deformed. This leaves the patient vulnerable to infection, easy bruising and bleeding, pinpoint hemorrhages and anemia. The good news is that MDS is a gradual disease and not necessarily fatal.

Early-stage MDS is asymptomatic, though a person finds out she has it after taking a blood test for another reason, states the MDS Foundation. As the levels of white blood cells and platelets begin to drop, it becomes difficult to fight off infection of many systems in the body since white blood cells are part of the immune system. Low platelet count manifests as spontaneous bleeds and bruises as platelets are responsible for clotting.

Medical professionals do not know the exact cause of MDS, explains the MDS Foundation. However, people who have already undergone radiation or chemotherapy for cancer are at risk, as are people who are exposed to toxins such as benzene.

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