Platelets are one of the cells present in the blood which help blood to clot. They are produced from your bone marrow along with other cells called red cells and white cells.
There are various reasons one can get low platelets. They can be low for temporary period or for longer periods. There are three grades of severity called mild, moderate and severe.
Generally speaking knowing the cause why one had low platelets is very important as low platelets can be associated with serious blood conditions like blood cancers. This can be easily ruled out by looking at blood smear under the microscope by an experienced person.
One needs to consult specialist who specializes in blood to ensure no serious conditions causing this in first place.
People will have symptoms of low platelets only when levels are very low and not all patients with low platelets need platelet transfusions. We give platelet transfusions only if someone is having bleeding or there is risk of bleeding.
Causes of low platelet include infections like dengue, Malaria, viral infections, vitamin deficiencies, medications, serious blood disorders like Leukemia and Lymphoma or other bone marrow problems.
Infection related problem should settle within few weeks after recovery from infection. One has to be vigilant in not missing out cancer/serious conditions while looking after patients with low platelets.
Many patients suffer from condition called ITP (Immune Thrombocytopenia) where their body recognizes their platelets as foreign and destroys them. Not all these patients need treatment despite low platelet counts as they do not always cause problems. Every treatment has its own side effects hence discuss with your doctor the rationale for treatment if you don’t have bleeding symptoms with low platelets.
Some General measures to take if you have low platelets:
- Caution with taking Aspirin or Clopidogrel or blood thinning medications
- Caution with strong pain killers like Ibuprofen.
- Do not consume excessive garlic and mustard as they reduce the platelet function
- There is no proven evidence that papaya juice will improve platelet count.
Dr Padmaja Lokireddy,
MD, MRCP, FRCPath(Haematology),
Consultant Haemato oncology and Stem cell Transplant,
Apollo Hospitals, Jubilee Hills,Hyderabad,India.