Thrombocytopenia (throm-boe-sie-toe-PEE-nee-uh) is a condition in which there aren't enough platelets in your blood. Platelets (thrombocytes) are colorless blood cells that stop bleeding by clumping and forming plugs in blood vessel injuries. Depending on the cause, having low platelets may or may not result in increased bleeding risk.
The most common reason for thrombocytopenia in children is immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). This occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks and destroys platelets. Children who develop ITP often have a history of a recent viral infection. Most children recover from ITP without any treatment within six months. Until then, they may need to avoid contact sports or other activities that could result in head injuries.
Less-common causes of thrombocytopenia in children include bone marrow disorders such as leukemia or other autoimmune conditions such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) or hereditary bone marrow disorders.
Some children who have thrombocytopenia never experience bleeding symptoms. For those who do have symptoms, they may include:
Children who have mild cases of thrombocytopenia may have no symptoms at all.
Children can develop thrombocytopenia if the bone marrow doesn't make enough platelets, the body destroys too many platelets or the spleen retains too many platelets.
These problems can result from:
Blood tests can confirm the diagnosis and may provide clues to underlying conditions causing the problem. Rarely, your doctor might suggest a bone marrow biopsy.
Treatment depends on the cause of your child's thrombocytopenia. In some cases, treatment might not be necessary. Thrombocytopenia may improve if an underlying cause is identified and treated. Treatment for thrombocytopenia may include medications, such as corticosteroids, gamma globulin or immune-suppressing drugs, and blood or platelet transfusions.
You'll likely first bring your child's symptoms to the attention of your family doctor. Depending on your symptoms, you may be referred to a specialist in blood diseases (hematology).
Consider taking a relative or friend along to the appointment to help remember all the information provided.
Here's some information to help you get ready for the appointment, and what to expect from the doctor.
Before your appointment, make a list of:
For pediatric thrombocytopenia, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
The doctor is likely to ask you several questions. Be ready to answer them to allow time later to cover other points you want to address. Examples include:
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