Thrombocytopenia is the medical term for a low blood platelet count. The most common cause of hemorrhagic disorders, thrombocytopenia is characterized by deficiency of circulating platelets. Because platelets playa vital role in coagulation, this disease poses a serious threat to hemostasis.
The prognosis is excellent in druginduced thrombocytopenia if the offending drug is withdrawn; in such cases, recovery may be immediate. Otherwise, the prognosis depends on response to treatment of the underlying cause.
Thrombocytopenia may be caused by infections in the fetus or newborn such as rubella, syphilis, and bacterial or viral infections. It can also develop when a mother's immune system produces antibodies against the baby's platelets. Some medications taken by the mother or given to the baby can cause thrombocytopenia.
Signs and symptoms
Thrombocytopenia typically produces a sudden onset of petechiae or ecchymoses in the skin or bleeding into any mucous membrane. Nearly all patients are otherwise asymptomatic, although some may complain of malaise, fatigue, and general weakness.
In adults, large blood-filled bullae characteristically appear in the mouth. In severe thrombocytopenia, hemorrhage may lead to tachycardia, shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, and death.
TreatmentEffective treatment varies with the underlying cause and may include corticosteroids or immune globulin to increase platelet production. When possible, treatment consists of correction of the underlying cause or, in drug-induced thrombocytopenia, removal of the offending agents. Platelet transfusions are helpful in thrombocytopenia only in treating complications of severe hemorrhage.
There is no known way to prevent thrombocytopenia.
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