What is a platelet count (PLT)?
Platelets, also called thrombocytes, are small blood cells produced in the bone marrow. When a blood vessel is damaged, platelets clot together to effectively “plug” the injury and stop bleeding. A platelet count is a diagnostic test carried out to determine how many platelets are present in a patient’s blood.
Low platelet count or high platelet count can indicate disorders of the bone marrow.
Why is this analysis important?
Neutrophils are differentiated from other cells under the microscope by their segmented nucleus and neutral pink stain (hence the name Neutrophil). They respond to inflammation and fight bacteria mainly by their swallowing function (a process called Phagocytosis).
They also release powerful chemicals that help with tissue healing after injury.
What are some of the causes of a high platelet count?
A high platelet count can indicate either essential thrombocythemia or reactive thrombocytosis.
Essential thrombocythemia is a rare bone marrow condition which causes the body to overproduce platelets. This is a chronic condition and is caused by a genetic mutation, but the reasons for this abnormality are uncertain.
Reactive thrombocytosis is a temporary elevation of the blood cells in response to another condition. While the response itself is often a normal part of acute inflammatory processes, reactive thrombocytosis can be caused by cancer, anaemia or certain auto-immune disorders. It generally resolves when the underlying condition is treated.
Platelets are important for the body as they clump or stick together in response to injury and prevent excessive bleeding. However, an abnormally high platelet count means that clotting could happen spontaneously. Blood clots may occur anywhere in the body, but are most common in the hands, feet and brain. Other symptoms of high platelet count include headaches, dizziness, weakness and fain
What are some of the causes of a low platelet count?
A low platelet count (thrombocytopenia) might be caused by a bone marrow disorder such as leukaemia, an immune system disorder along with anaemia (low haemoglobin count), or a viral infection such as hepatitis. Alternatively, thrombocytopenia can be a side effect of taking some medications such as chemotherapy or certain antibiotics that can interfere with the bone marrow.
Thrombocytopenia may be mild and a person may have no symptoms with it. However, a lack of platelets means that the blood may not clot properly. If it is a severe case, symptoms include increased bruising, heavy menstrual flows, blood in the urine or stool and bleeding gums. It can also cause a skin rash of superficial bleeding called petechiae, which looks like tiny red dots and can often appear on the lower legs.