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Thrombocytopenia means you don't have enough platelets, cells in your blood that stick together to help it clot. It might not cause you any health problems at all. But if you do have symptoms like bleeding too much, treatments can help.


Platelets are made in your bone marrow, the spongy tissue inside your bones. You can get thrombocytopenia if your body doesn't make enough of them, or if they're destroyed faster than they can be made.

Your body might not make enough platelets if you have a:

Chemotherapy or radiation treatment for cancer destroys stem cells that form platelets. If you've been in contact with chemicals like pesticides and arsenic, your body might slow down the process of making platelets.

Your platelets can be damaged by:

  • Autoimmune diseases such as lupus or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), where your own body attacks healthy cells
  • Medicines, such as antibiotics that contain sulfa, heparin used to prevent blood clots, and antiseizure drugs such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and vancomycin (Vancocin)
  • Rare diseases that make blood clots form in the body, such as thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) and disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)
  • Viruses like mononucleosis or cytomegalovirus

Sometimes, you don't have enough platelets because they get trapped in your spleen, an organ that fights infection. And women may get thrombocytopenia during pregnancy, because their bodies get rid of platelets more quickly than usual.


Sometimes you don't have any symptoms from thrombocytopenia. When you do, the main one is bleeding.

You can bleed outside or inside your body. Sometimes it can be heavy or hard to stop. Some people get nosebleeds or bleeding gums.

You might also have:

  • Blood in your urine or bowel movement
  • Headaches
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Purple or red bruises, called purpura
  • Tiny red or purple spots on your skin, called petechiae

These symptoms might not start until your platelet count is very low. If you notice any of them, call your doctor.

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