Q:

What are low blood platelets, and what can you do about them?

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Quick Answer

The technical term for a low blood platelet count is thrombocytopenia, and treatments range from addressing the underlying condition, and, if applicable, blood transfusions or treatment for the disease idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Some moderate cases, though, resolve on their own, according to Mayo Clinic.

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Full Answer

Low blood platelet count has a number of different causes. In some cases, the spleen enlarges and pulls too many platelets out of the bloodstream, causing a low count. Viral infections such as HIV hinder the production of platelets in the bone marrow, and diseases such as leukemia and some forms of anemia reduce production as well. Heavy alcohol consumption, chemotherapy treatments and toxic chemicals also interfere with production. Other conditions such as autoimmune diseases, pregnancy, blood bacteria, hemolytic uremic syndrome and ITP also lead to low platelet count, as stated by Mayo Clinic.

The treatments for low blood platelet count vary with the underlying cause. However, when treating the underlying cause does not boost platelet count, the doctor can provide transfusions with packed platelets or red blood cells. For those suffering from ITP, medications such as corticosteroids fight antibodies that attack platelets. In extreme cases, splenectomy (removal of the spleen) or medications to suppress the work of the immune system are commonly used, notes Mayo Clinic.

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