My parents first knew something was wrong with me when I was 3 months old. I was constantly in pain, constantly crying. They thought I had rheumatic fever or polio. The townspeople would come over and sit by my bed and pray.
After seeing local doctors, I was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when I was 6. It's a disease that makes your red blood cells grow in a crescent shape, which means they can block blood vessels and stop oxygen from getting to the cells. That causes pain and anemia and can...
A healthy person usually has a platelet count of 150,000 to 400,000. You have thrombocytopenia if your number falls under 150,000.
If you're wondering what the long name means, here's how it breaks down: "thrombocytes" are your platelets and "penia" means you don't have enough of something. Put those terms together, and you get "thrombocytopenia."
Your doctor may tell you that you have a form of the condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). "Idiopathic" means the cause isn't known. "Purpura" refers to bruising, which is one of the symptoms.
Although doctors don't know what causes ITP, they know that it happens when your immune system -- your body's defense against disease -- doesn't work right. Your antibodies, which are supposed to attack infections, instead mistakenly destroy your blood platelets.
Thrombocytopenia can run in families, but you can also get it from some drugs and many medical conditions. For instance, your body might make fewer platelets if you have:
Viral infections, including chickenpox, parvovirus, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr, mononucleosis, or HIV
Severe bacterial infection in your blood
Blood cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma
A problem with your bone marrow
Rare disorder called hemolytic uremic syndrome
Miliary tuberculosis (miliary TB)
Vitamin B12 or folate (vitamin B9) deficiency
You could also get thrombocytopenia if you're taking chemotherapy drugs or you're getting radiation treatment on your bone marrow. Drinking a lot of alcohol can also bring on the condition.
Thrombocytopenia can also happen if your spleen is enlarged, which can trap platelets so they won't move through your body.
In other cases, your body just uses too many platelets, leaving you without enough of them. That can happen if you have an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. The same is true if you have thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), which uses a lot of platelets to make small blood clots throughout your body.
Your blood platelets can also be destroyed because of:
Preeclampsia, a condition some pregnant women get
Heart bypass surgery
Medication side effects, including drugs for heart problems, seizures, and infections