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What is thrombocytopenia?

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Quick Answer

Thrombocytopenia is a disorder in which the number of platelets in the blood is particularly low, as stated by MedlinePlus. Several different health conditions can cause this condition.

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There are three main causes of thrombocytopenia, as explained by MedlinePlus. The first possible cause is that the bone marrow does not make enough platelets. The second possibility occurs when platelets break down too quickly in the bloodstream, and the third cause possibly results when platelets break down too quickly in the liver or spleen.

Several health conditions can prevent the bone marrow from making enough platelets, as reported by MedlinePlus. These conditions include aplastic anemia, leukemia, cirrhosis of the liver and deficiency of folate or vitamin B-12. Chemotherapy drugs can also reduce platelet production.

A different set of health conditions can cause thrombocytopenia by increasing the breakdown of platelets. These include disseminated intravascular coagulation, immnue thrombocytopenic purpura and swelling in the spleen, according to MedlinePlus.

Thrombocytopenia does not always have symptoms, but it can cause oral bleeding, bruising, rashes and nosebleeds, as noted by MedlinePlus. A health care provider can diagnose thrombocytopenia by using a complete blood count test or blood clotting studies. Sometimes a platelet transfusion is needed to treat bleeding caused by thrombocytopenia.

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