Platelets are colorless, irregularly shaped bodies that are present in the blood. The main function of the platelets is to form clots that help prevent excessive bleeding. The platelets in combination with calcium, vitamin K and a protein known as fibrinogen form clots to stop bleeding. A routine blood test provides answers to red blood cell count, white blood cell count and platelets in a blood sample.
A platelet count or thrombocyte count specifically provides answers to the number of platelets in your blood. The platelets count normal values range between 150,000 to 350,000 platelets in a microliter of blood. A low platelet count or high platelet count are indications of abnormal blood function or indications of prevailing health disorders.
A low platelet count is known as thrombocytopenia and this condition causes excessive bleeding incase of injury or accidents. A low platelet count may be attributed to various reasons such as intake of certain medications, onset of health disorders such as leukemia, infections, bone marrow disorders or diseases such HIV. Intake of alcohol and dosage of antihistamines and anti-inflammatory drugs can also lead to a low platelet count. Low platelet count may also be due to cancer chemotherapy, massive blood transfusion, hypersplenism, hemolytic anemia or a prosthetic heart valve.
A high platelet count or increased platelet count is also known as thrombocytosis. This condition is characterized by excessive production of platelets by the bone marrow cells. Increased platelet count could be essential or reactive. Reactive increase in platelet count is caused due to infection, injury, anemia, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammation that lead to sudden increase in platelets. No symptoms are experienced by those having reactive increase in platelet count while people having essential increase in platelet count may suffer from conditions such as bloody stools, nose bleeding, blood clots etc. Individuals with essential thrombcytosis have higher risk of developing fatal blood clots. Such blood clots can damage blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
It is important to note that certain considerations like living in high altitudes, excessive exercise and post delivery body changes can cause an increase in platelet count. Intake of certain medications or drugs such as oral contraceptives or estrogen can also increase the platelet count in the blood. A woman may also experience decreased levels of platelets before menstruation. Inherited disorders may also play an important role in determining a high or low platelet count.