Platelets are blood cells that help the blood to clot. Blood clotting disorders, such as thrombosis, hemophilia and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura can cause too many blood clots or make it difficult for the blood to clot normally. These conditions can cause life-threatening blood loss and should be treated immediately to prevent shock and loss of life.
Thrombosis is the presence of a blood clot in the blood vessels. Blood clots are clots of coagulated blood that attach to the vessels where they are formed. These clots can be dangerous because they block the flow of blood. This condition is caused by slow circulation, injury to the lining of a vein or an increased tendency for clotting. Thrombosis can be signaled by leg swelling, change in the color of a leg, increased leg warmth, leg tenderness and leg pain. If the blood clot travels to the lung, it can cause fainting, fast heartbeat, feelings of fear, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath. When a clot travels to the lung, it is known as a pulmonary embolism. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, thrombosis treatment focuses on stopping clot formation and preventing the recurrence of blood clots. This is accomplished using an anticoagulant known as heparin, which is followed by warfarin. Thrombosis is also treated with elastic compression stockings, local application of heat and limb elevation.
Hemophilia is a bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot normally. According to the National Institutes of Health, it affects 18,000 people in the United States and is also called Factor IX deficiency, Factor VIII deficiency and Christmas disease hemophilia can be caused by a lack of clotting factor VIII (hemophilia A) or a lack of clotting factor IX (hemophilia B). It can also be caused by a lack of clotting factor XI, but this type of hemophilia is rare in the United States. Signs and symptoms of hemophilia include unexplained bleeding and bruising, prolonged bleeding from cuts, nosebleeds, joint pain caused by internal bleeding and blood in the stool or urine. If hemophilia becomes an emergency, it can also be accompanied by sudden pain and swelling, painful headache, extreme fatigue, double vision, neck pain and vomiting that does not go away. Hemophilia cannot be cured, but can be treated. Mild hemophilia A is treated with injections of desmopressin, which is a hormone that stimulates the release of clotting factor. Hemophilia A or B that is moderate to severe may require the infusion of clotting factor taken from donated blood. Recombinant clotting factors, which are produced with genetic engineering, can also be infused. Hemophilia C can be treated with plasma infusions that can stop bleeding.
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a medical condition in which the blood does not clot normally. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, it is related to a malfunction of the immune system. The malfunction causes the immune system to attack platelets with antibodies. When the platelets are attacked, they are destroyed by the spleen. Signs and symptoms of ITP include easy bruising, prolonged bleeding from injuries and cuts, unusually heavy menstrual periods, reddish-purple spots on the skin, spontaneous nose bleeds, bleeding from the gums and blood in the urine or stool. This condition can be treated with medications, surgery or platelet transfusions. Corticosteroids suppress the immune system and prevent the platelets from being attacked. Intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) can be administered to increase a person's platelet count. Removal of the spleen, also known as splenectomy, can also be done to stop the destruction of platelets when corticosteroids are ineffective. Platelets transfusions are used to stop widespread bleeding in an emergency situation.