Conditions which may lead to decreased platelets count, including dengue

A low platelet count can have a destabilising effect on your health. Here, we tell you about what brings on this condition.
Recent news reports confirm that India is again reeling under the effects of a dengue outbreak. The states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Tamil Nadu are the worst hit. Chennai has reported almost 3000 cases so far this year and the recent floods in Bihar has led to fears of an outbreak in this state too. The national capital, Delhi, has so far reported almost 300 cases of dengue this year and health officials fear that this figure may go up in the near future.

According to the World Health Organisation, dengue is fast emerging as a pandemic-prone viral disease in many parts of the world. This disease is spread by mosquito bite and can, sometimes, lead to fatal complications. WHO says that, today, there may be 50-100 million dengue infections annually in over 100 endemic countries. This puts almost half of the world’s population at risk.

Dengue can be fatal if proper care is not taken. It can lead to the more severe dengue haemorrhagic fever. One of the complications of this is a sudden fall in blood platelet count. If the situation is not reversed immediately, it can even lead to death. But dengue is not the only condition that causes a fall in platelets. There are many other disorders where you may encounter this complication.

Low platelet count is also known as thrombocytopenia. An average person has platelets in the range of 150,000 to 400,000 per microlitre of blood. If this falls below 150,000, it is thrombocytopenia. Since, platelets help in clotting, this is a serious condition as it can lead to internal bleeding. This condition may be due to a fall in the production of platelets, destruction of platelets as well as trapping of platelets in the spleen.

A low platelet level is not a serious condition in most cases. But If your platelets fall too low, it can prevent clotting. This can lead to excessive bleeding in certain circumstances and this is when it becomes a serious issue.  Let us take a look at a few health conditions that can cause platelet count to fall.

Blood Disorders
Low platelets can be due to certain blood disorders. Some kinds of anaemia like aplastic anaemia can prevent the bone marrow from producing enough blood cells because normal blood forming stem cells are replaced by abnormal fat cells. As a result, it leads to a deficiency of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

Bone Marrow Damage
Bone marrow damage is another reason since platelets are formed in the bone marrow. Cancers like leukaemia and lymphoma can cause damage to the bone marrow. Sometimes, a baby may suffer from this damage during birth.

Bacterial and viral infections can also cause this disorder as can a few autoimmune diseases like lupus and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). This is especially true for diseases like chicken pox, rubella, HIV and hepatitis C.

Sometimes, a deficiency in vitamin B12, iron and folate may also cause this condition. But the deficiency has to be severe. If it is a mild deficiency, there is no risk.

Medication And Treatments Procedures
Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation can destroy the stem cells that help in forming platelets. Certain drugs may also be responsible for a low platelet count. Diuretics and anti-seizure medications may increase the risk of low platelet count.

If you have low platelet count, you may be prone to easy bruising, blood in urine and stools and reddish spots on lower legs. If you are a woman, you may experience abnormal menstruation flow. You may also exhibit an enlarged spleen and jaundice. Extreme tiredness is another symptom of this condition. Unstoppable bleeding from a wound is also a symptom. If you have any of these symptoms, you must consult a doctor.

A doctor may recommend a bone marrow biopsy to diagnose this condition.

Usual treatments for this condition are immunosuppressive medication, blood transfusions and stem-cell transplants. But there are possibilities of new and more effective treatment procedures in the near future.

 According to researchers at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, oestrogen may be able to trigger the formation of blood platelet cells. This study was published in Genes & Development. Researchers say that the most abundant form of naturally occurring oestrogen, oestradiol, triggers the formation of blood platelet cells. They are hopeful that this discovery can help in the development of new therapies for conditions associated with altered platelet counts, like anaemia, certain leukaemia and even chemotherapy.

Another study at the Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan, researchers developed a way to grow human platelets in the laboratory from stem cells derived from fat tissue. This was reported in the journal Blood. Researchers are hopeful that manufactured platelets could eventually reduce the reliance on donated platelets to help patients with cancer and other disorders.

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