What is Thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which the blood has a lower than normal number of platelets. Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are a type of blood cell responsible for helping the blood clot, which prevents and stops excessive bleeding.

In most cases, thrombocytopenia is a symptom of an underlying disease or condition. Thrombocytopenia can also be triggered by the use of certain medications, including some antibiotics, cancer treatments, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Symptoms of Thrombocytopenia

Common symptoms of thrombocytopenia include:

  • excessive or easy bruising
  • prolonged bleeding from cuts
  • frequent or severe nosebleeds
  • blood spots or rashes on the skin due to bleeding underneath the skin
  • unusually heavy menstrual periods
  • excessive bleeding from dental work
  • fatigue or weakness

Causes of Thrombocytopenia

Thrombocytopenia can be caused by a variety of factors, such as:

  • Certain medications, including some antibiotics, chemotherapy agents, and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Infections, including HIV, mononucleosis, malaria, cytomegalovirus, hepatitis, and Epstein-Barr virus
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
  • Cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma
  • Exposure to toxins or radiation
  • Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency
  • Genetic disorders, such as thrombocytopenia-absent radius (TAR) syndrome or Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome

Diagnosis of Thrombocytopenia

If your doctor suspects that you have thrombocytopenia, he or she will order a complete blood count (CBC) to determine your platelet count. Your doctor may also order additional tests, such as a bone marrow biopsy or imaging tests, to determine the cause of the condition.