Glossary of Medical Terms

Thrombocytopenia

Thrombocytopenia is a disorder in which there are too few platelets and the blood does not clot properly. People who have thrombocytopenia may bleed a lot from an injury because they have an abnormally low number of platelets.

Some conditions or diseases lead to thrombocytopenia because they destroy a person's platelets or interfere with their production. Certain medicines may also cause thrombocytopenia. A person who has a low platelet count with no known cause is said to have idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).

Symptoms of thrombocytopenia include:

  • Easy or excessive bruising.

  • Pinpoint-sized red spots (petechiae) around the feet and ankles. In more serious cases of thrombocytopenia, the spots are larger and more widespread (purpura).

  • Nosebleeds.

  • Heavy menstrual flow.

Treatment for low platelets starts with finding a cause that can be eliminated, such as changing a drug the person is taking or treating an infection. Treatment may include platelet injections into a vein, called platelet transfusion; taking medicines to stop destruction of the platelets; taking medicine that helps the body make more platelets; or surgery to remove the spleen. 

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