What does low platelets mean? Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura also known as Autoimmune or Immune Thrombocytopenia or ITP is a condition where there is low platelet counts. These platelets decrease to a very low level causing bleeding under the skin, gums, and internally.
I am going to try and make this as dumb simple as possible without going into difficult medical terminology since this was not written for doctors but for the common person who suffers from ITP.
Platelets are cells produced in the bone marrow from cells called Megakaryocytes. These megakaryocytes break up into little pieces (about 5,000 -10,000). These little pieces or fragments are the so-called platelets.
Function of Platelets
The function of platelets is to help in the clotting process. Whenever a blood vessel breaks, the body produces a small net of fibrin and platelets will end trapped in that net forming a plug preventing further damage to the blood vessels and more important, preventing further loss of blood.
At the same time they are trying to plug up a small hole in a blood vessel they are also producing chemicals known as growth factors that stimulate collagen which is like a cement that fills in the hole and promotes faster healing and repair of the damaged area.
You normally should have between 140-500,000 per cubic mm of blood. They have a lifespan of 7-12 days. Platelets can go as low as 45,000 without any risk of bleeding. But as soon as they go under the 50,000 level your predisposition to bleeding increases. A level of 10,000 or less is considered a medical emergency since it can cause bleeding in the brain.
Some would say that under 20,000 these risks can already occur. It is important that if you suffer from any low blood platelet disease that you avoid the use of aspirin.
Aspirin damaged irreversibly the function of platelets. Which means that those platelets will not work until the aspirin is stopped and they are replaced by new platelets in 7-12 days. The same applies to ibuprofen.
Since you are probably a sufferer of ITP, going over the symptoms may be unnecessary. But if the reader is a non-sufferer who just wants to know enough to understand a friend or close relative that is a sufferer of the disease I will mention the basic symptoms here.
How to know if your platelets are low
Petechiae: Small little red blood spots that occur under the skin and that is manifested initially in the extremities. Bruises or what is commonly called “black and blue” spots come out in the skin also. In the image on your right, you can see both the Petechiae and the bruises. Bleeding Gums nosebleeds are also frequent. These basic signs are already an indication that your platelet level may have dropped lower than 20,000.
Hematomas & Bruises: A collection of blood that takes place in soft tissues and under the skin. These may occur when the platelets are under 5 to 10,000. The problem is when it happens in the brain. This is known also as intracranial hemorrhage.
Internal Bleeding: Internal bleeding may occur in the gastrointestinal tract and in the urinary tract. But many people who suffer ITP are able to maintain their platelets at over 40-50,000 so they do not manifest any symptoms.
by Louis Cruz
Author of Conquer Low Platelets