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High Platelet Count – Low, Normal

The medical term used for referring to platelets is thrombocytes. The platelets are tiny, disc shaped, specific blood cells. They are cell fragments which have their origins in the cytoplasm of a humungous bone marrow cell known as megakaryocyte.

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Blood is a dedicated body fluid which carries out a number of vital functions. The blood consists of different parts, including the white blood cells, the blood platelets, the blood plasma and the red blood cells

Megakaryocytes come from the pluripotential stem cells that can be found in the bone marrow. Platelets do not have a distinct nucleus. They do not contain DNA and hemoglobin. However, these specific cells have some chemicals that aid the coagulation of blood. Hence, platelets play a vital role in the prevention of loss of blood during cases of severe wounds or injuries

Normal platelet count

  • A healthy individual will generally have a platelet count ranging between 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. As per certain studies, nearly 95 percent of healthy people show a platelet count value that comes within this range. It may be noted that even though a platelet count that is below or above this range is termed as abnormal, some individuals with small deviations are seen to be completely healthy. However, excessive difference from the normal range of platelet count can result in fatality
  • When there is a variation from the normal platelet count range, then further research is needed to recognize the underlying cause of the abnormal platelet count. Thrombocythemia is a medical term used to refer to a situation when the cause of a high platelet count is not known. When the platelet count is lower than normal, then the condition is known as thrombocytopenia. When a medical disorder results in a high platelet count, then it is known as reactive or secondary thrombocytosis

Function of blood platelets

  • The platelets play a vital role in hemostasis, which is the process of blood clotting. When an injury results in the rupture of a blood vessel, the platelets get activated. The hurt platelets then secrete an enzyme known as thrombokinase, which convert the prothrombin found in blood into thrombin. A reaction between soluble fibrinogen and thrombin leads to the creation of insoluble fibrin which then leads to development of thread-like structures that create a sticky mass at the injured location. This then leads to clotting of blood.
  • Platelets can live for a short period of around 8 to 10 days. However, the bone marrow carries on the producing new blood platelets, which then begin circulating across the body. The platelet count is thus kept within the normal range.

Causes of low platelet count

  • Patients undergoing radiation therapy or chemotherapy may have a low platelet count
  • A few women may experience a low platelet count, just prior to menstruation.
  • A platelet count that is below 50, 000 is considered as critical. A platelet count that drops below 20, 000 may result in spontaneous bleeding and lead to death.

High platelet count causes

  • Essential thrombocythemia is caused due to increased production of platelets by the faulty stem cells present in the bone marrow.
  • A class of disorders known as myeloproliferative disorders, which include conditions such as Essential thrombocythemia, Chronic myelogenous leukemia, primary myelofibrosis and polycythemia vera, are known to cause high platelet count. Individuals who have experienced radiation exposure or those with a genetic predisposition may be at increased risk to developing these disorders.
    • Chronic myelogenous leukemia is a type of cancer that begins inside the bone marrow
    • Polycythemia vera is a disorder that results in excessive production of platelets as well as increased manufacture of RBCs and WBCs.
    • Primary myelofibrosis features growth of excessive fibrous tissue within the bone marrow.
    • Other causes of a high platelet count include infection, prolonged use or overdose of certain drugs, surgery, inflammatory or infectious or diseases, abnormal spleen function, iron deficiency anemia, splenectomy, pancreatitis, kidney diseases, acute bleeding or cardiac arrest.
    • A platelet count of above 1,000,000 is believed to be critical.

Symptoms of high platelet count

  • Platelets are responsible for the coagulation of blood. Hence an increased number of platelets in the blood can lead to formation of blood clots, which can restrict the flow of blood to different areas of the body. This can result in serious health complications.
  • Some common symptoms of high platelet count include tingling sensations, easy bruising, headaches, dizziness and weakness.
  • Severe cases of high platelet count can increase the vulnerability to stroke, heart attack, or spleen enlargement

Treatment of high platelet count

  • When a high platelet count is caused due to the presence of an underlying disease other than a condition of the bone marrow, then the platelet count can be lowered by treating the causative disorder.
  • Most treatment methods for treating causative diseases of high platelet count focuses on the use of drugs
  • Blood thinning medications are prescribed in case of excess viscosity of blood
  • Increased production of blood platelets by the bone marrow is treated by prescription medications that cause the production of platelets by the bone marrow, to slow down.
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