What Is a Low Platelet Count?


Quick Answer

A low platelet count occurs when there is a lower than average amount of platelets, blood cells that aid in blood clotting, in someone's blood, according to Mayo Clinic. The medical term for a low platelet count is thrombocytopenia.

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Full Answer

Thrombocytopenia occurs when a person's platelet count is less than 150,000, explains WebMD. A person's platelet count falls when the antibodies in his blood accidentally destroy blood platelets instead of destroying infections. Thrombocytopenia can occur as a result of viral infections, bacterial blood infections, bone marrow problems and vitamin B12 deficiency. A body may also produce fewer platelets as a result of diseases such as leukemia, lymphoma, miliary tuberculosis and hemolytic uremic syndrome. Autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis cause the body to use an excessive amount of platelets, leading to thrombocytopenia. Thrombocytopenia may also result from an enlarged spleen, which prevents platelets from moving through the body.

Symptoms of thrombocytopenia include excessive bleeding from cuts, irregularly heavy menstrual periods and blood in stools or urine, notes Mayo Clinic. Other signs of the disorder include excessive bruising, spontaneous bleeding from the nose or gums and red and purple spots on the lower legs that result from internal bleeding. Platelets are important in blood clotting, which prevents dangerous bleeding. A low platelet count may cause a person to bleed out if he does not receive medical attention.

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