What is the definition of Thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is any disorder in which there is an abnormally low amount of platelets. Platelets are parts of the blood that help blood to clot. This condition is sometimes associated with abnormal bleeding.

What are the alternative names for Thrombocytopenia?

Low platelet count - thrombocytopenia

What are the causes for Thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is often divided into 3 major causes of low platelets:

  • Not enough platelets are made in the bone marrow
  • Increased breakdown of platelets in the bloodstream
  • Increased breakdown of platelets in the spleen or liver
  • Your bone marrow may not make enough platelets if you have any of the following conditions:

    • Aplastic anemia (disorder in which the bone marrow does not make enough blood cells)
    • Cancer in the bone marrow, such as leukemia
    • Cirrhosis (liver scarring)
    • Folate deficiency
    • Infections in the bone marrow (very rare)
    • Myelodysplastic syndrome (bone marrow does not make enough blood cells or makes defective cells)
    • Vitamin B12 deficiency

    Use of certain drugs may also lead to a low production of platelets in the bone marrow. The most common example is chemotherapy treatment.

    The following health conditions cause increased breakdown of platelets:

    • Disorder in which the proteins that control blood clotting become over active, most often during a serious illness (DIC)
    • Drug-induced low platelet count
    • Enlarged spleen
    • Disorder in which the immune system destroys platelets (ITP)
    • Disorder that causes blood clots to form in small blood vessels, causing a low platelet count (TTP)

    What are the symptoms for Thrombocytopenia?

    You may not have any symptoms. Or you may have general symptoms, such as:

    • Bleeding in the mouth and gums
    • Bruising
    • Nosebleeds
    • Rash (pinpoint red spots called petechiae)

    Other symptoms depend on the cause.

    What are the current treatments for Thrombocytopenia?

    Treatment depends on the cause of the condition. In some cases, a transfusion of platelets may be required to stop or prevent bleeding.

    What is the outlook (prognosis) for Thrombocytopenia?

    The outcome depends on the disorder causing the low platelet counts.

    What are the possible complications for Thrombocytopenia?

    Severe bleeding (hemorrhage) is the main complication. Bleeding may occur in the brain or gastrointestinal tract.

    When should I contact a medical professional for Thrombocytopenia?

    Call your provider if you experience unexplained bleeding or bruising.

    How do I prevent Thrombocytopenia?

    Prevention depends on the specific cause.


    Abrams CS. Thrombocytopenia. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 163.

    Arnold DM, Zeller MP, Smith JW, Nazy I. Diseases of platelet number: immune thrombocytopenia, neonatal alloimmune thrombocytopenia, and posttransfusion purpura. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 131.

    Warkentin TE. Thrombocytopenia caused by platelet destruction, hypersplenism, or hemodilution. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ, Silberstein LE, et al, eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 132.