Information for Patients
Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are small pieces of blood cells. They form in your bone marrow, a sponge-like tissue in your bones. Platelets play a major role in blood clotting. Normally, when one of your blood vessels is injured, you start to bleed. Your platelets will clot (clump together) to plug the hole in the blood vessel and stop the bleeding. You can have different problems with your platelets:
- If your blood has a low number of platelets, it is called thrombocytopenia. This can put you at risk for mild to serious bleeding. The bleeding could be external or internal. There can be various causes. If the problem is mild, you may not need treatment. For more serious cases, you may need medicines or blood or platelet transfusions.
- If your blood has too many platelets, you may have a higher risk of blood clots.
- When the cause is not known, this is called thrombocythemia. It is rare. You may not need treatment if there are no signs or symptoms. In other cases, people who have it may need treatment with medicines or procedures.
- If another disease or condition is causing the high platelet count, it is thrombocytosis. The treatment and outlook for thrombocytosis depends on what is causing it.
- Another possible problem is that your platelets do not work as they should. For example, in von Willebrand Disease, your platelets cannot stick together or cannot attach to blood vessel walls. This can cause excessive bleeding. There are different types of in von Willebrand Disease; treatment depends on which type you have.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Glanzmann thrombasthenia Glanzmann thrombasthenia is a bleeding disorder that is characterized by prolonged or spontaneous bleeding starting from birth. People with Glanzmann thrombasthenia tend to bruise easily, have frequent nosebleeds (epistaxis), and may bleed from the gums. They may also develop red or purple spots on the skin caused by bleeding underneath the skin (petechiae) or swelling caused by bleeding within tissues (hematoma). Glanzmann thrombasthenia can also cause prolonged bleeding following injury, trauma, or surgery (including dental work). Women with this condition can have prolonged and sometimes abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding. Affected women also have an increased risk of excessive blood loss during pregnancy and childbirth.About a quarter of individuals with Glanzmann thrombasthenia have bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract, which often occurs later in life. Rarely, affected individuals have bleeding inside the skull (intracranial hemorrhage) or joints (hemarthrosis).The severity and frequency of the bleeding episodes in Glanzmann thrombasthenia can vary greatly among affected individuals, even in the same family. Spontaneous bleeding tends to become less frequent with age.
Gray platelet syndrome Gray platelet syndrome is a bleeding disorder associated with abnormal platelets, which are blood cell fragments involved in blood clotting. People with this condition tend to bruise easily and have an increased risk of nosebleeds (epistaxis). They may also experience abnormally heavy or extended bleeding following surgery, dental work, or minor trauma. Women with gray platelet syndrome often have irregular, heavy periods (menometrorrhagia). These bleeding problems are usually mild to moderate, but they have been life-threatening in a few affected individuals.A condition called myelofibrosis, which is a buildup of scar tissue (fibrosis) in the bone marrow, is another common feature of gray platelet syndrome. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue in the center of long bones that produces most of the blood cells the body needs, including platelets. The scarring associated with myelofibrosis damages bone marrow, preventing it from making enough blood cells. Other organs, particularly the spleen, start producing more blood cells to compensate; this process often leads to an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly).