By LOUISE CARR, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist
If you bruise too easily, or a tiny cut produces a lot more blood than you'd expect, you may have a low platelet count. The main sign of a low platelet count is easy or excessive bruising. You may also bleed a lot from small cuts, and bleed from your gums or your nose. Women may have unusually heavy periods. Surgery or dental work will produce copious amounts of blood.
The condition sounds scary, and it can be dangerous. But a low platelet that's not associated by another underlying condition is rare.
Research by Michael A Silverman, MD at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine estimates only 66 people per million in the United States have a lower than normal number of platelets when they don't also have a disease associated with low platelet count.
A low platelet count may be caused by a number of underlying conditions and exposure to medications. You may also suffer from a low platelet count when you are expecting - low blood platelet count occurs in 7-8 percent of all pregnancies, according to 2011 research from the Royal Free Hospital, London, UK. How do you know if you have a low platelet count? Is a low platelet count dangerous and what can you do to help prevent and cure a low platelet count?
What is a Low Platelet Count?
Your platelets are non-colored blood cells, made in the bone marrow, that help your blood to clot. Platelets are important because they stop you losing blood when your body is injured, by bunching together and plugging holes in your blood vessels.
If you are diagnosed with a low platelet count, you have thrombocytopenia, the medical term. Thrombocytopenia means a lower than normal amount of platelets in your blood - less than 150,000 platelets per microliter of blood (the normal count is between 150,000 and 450,000). You can find out if you have thrombocytopenia with a blood count, and your doctor may also carry out a physical exam to see if you have signs of bleeding or bruising.
What Causes a Low Platelet Count?
A low platelet count has many possible causes. In general, you may have a low platelet count because you have a decreased platelet production; an increase in platelet destruction; or an increase in splenic sequestration - storage of platelets in the spleen. All of these conditions cause your platelet level to drop.
Decreased platelet production is often related to a condition that causes a problem with your bone marrow, making your bone marrow produce fewer platelets. These conditions include viral infections like mumps, chickenpox, rubella, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr virus, and HIV; as wellas medications; chemotherapy drugs; cancers of the bone marrow; and alcohol abuse.
If you are deficient in vitamin B12 your bone marrow may not be able to produce enough platelets.
Increased platelet destruction is due to a number of medical conditions such as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, a condition where the immune system attacks platelets. Certain medications can cause an immune system reaction, resulting in low platelet counts, as can bacteria in the blood and autoimmune diseases like lupus. Your body may destroy platelets more rapidly than usual when you are pregnant.
Splenic sequestration happens when the spleen enlarges and retains more than its usual amount of platelets. An enlarged spleen can be due to advanced liver disease or blood cancers.
Is a Low Platelet Count Dangerous?
In many cases you may not realize you have a low platelet count as the signs are mild and you notice few symptoms. However, a low platelet count can be dangerous in the rare cases where you have so few platelets that serious internal bleeding occurs. A low platelet count can cause bleeding into the brain or intestines, which can be fatal.
Top 10 Natural Remedies for Low Platelet Count
Treatment for seriously low platelet levels is a medical emergency and you should see a doctor immediately if you cannot stop the flow of blood by normal first aid procedures. Otherwise, there are several options for treating low platelet counts, depending on the underlying cause of the condition. We checked current medical literature to find out the best remedies for a low platelet count.
1. Cut Down on Alcohol if you have a Low Platelet Count
You may or may not be able to drink alcohol if you have a low platelet count. Alcohol slows down your body's production of platelets, which is bad news if you have a low count.
If you are a heavy drinker, over a long period of time, alcohol can cause toxicity in the bone marrow, which sabotages the production of platelets. A 1991 study from Bayley Seton Hospital, Staten Island explains that alcohol has a direct toxic effect on the production, survival time and function of platelets. The platelet count usually begins to rise after two to five days' away from alcohol.
2. Take Care with Pain Medication When You Have a Low Platelet Count
Don't automatically reach for the aspirin or ibuprofen, or other over-the-counter pain meds, if you have a low platelet count. Advil, Motrin and others can affect your platelets.
However, aspirin therapy may be useful for treating cancer patients who have a low platelet count and experience acute coronary syndromes, according to 2007 research from the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston. The study showed the risks of severe bleeding were low in comparison to the benefits of aspirin therapy for cancer patients with acute coronary syndrome.
3. Remedy Easy Bruising with Citrus Bioflavonoids
Low platelet count can cause you to bruise easily, creating unsightly marks on your skin as well as pain and discomfort.
Bioflavonoids - the plant substances that give color to many fruits and vegetables - have shown promise in decreasing the occurrence of easy bruising. Citrus fruits are rich in bioflavonoids.
A 1993 study from Service de Médecine Interne, Hôpital de Pessac, France showed the citrus bioflavonoids diosmin and hesperidin decreased the tendency to bruise in 96 people with fragile capillaries.
4. Take Escin For Easy Bruising with a Low Platelet Count