Skip Navigation Links.
Collapse Patient Education MaterialsPatient Education Materials
Expand AIDS/HIVAIDS/HIV
Expand Back SurgeryBack Surgery
Expand Behavioral HealthBehavioral Health
Expand Breathing DisordersBreathing Disorders
Collapse Cancer: MiscellaneousCancer: Miscellaneous
Expand CardiologyCardiology
Expand Cardiology DrugsCardiology Drugs
Expand Catheters, Drains, and PortsCatheters, Drains, and Ports
Expand ContraceptionContraception
Expand DiabetesDiabetes
Expand Eye CareEye Care
Expand FluFlu
Expand GastrointestinalGastrointestinal
Expand Infection ControlInfection Control
Expand Infectious DiseasesInfectious Diseases
Expand LiverLiver
Expand Men's HealthMen's Health
Expand MiscellaneousMiscellaneous
Expand Neurology/NeurosurgeryNeurology/Neurosurgery
Expand Nutrition and DietNutrition and Diet
Expand Older Adults & CaregiversOlder Adults & Caregivers
Expand OrthopaedicsOrthopaedics
Expand Ostomy CareOstomy Care
Expand OtolaryngologyOtolaryngology
Expand Pain ControlPain Control
Expand Pregnancy and ChildbirthPregnancy and Childbirth
Expand RehabilitationRehabilitation
Expand Safety TipsSafety Tips
Expand Sexually Transmitted DiseasesSexually Transmitted Diseases
Expand SkinSkin
Expand SmokingSmoking
Expand SurgerySurgery
Expand Women's HealthWomen's Health

Contact Us

For more help or information, please contact UPMC


Low Platelet Count (Thrombocytopenia)

What are Platelets?

Your blood contains different types of cells. Each type has a different job to do. Platelets are the cells that help your blood to clot. The bone marrow produces them. It’s very important to have enough platelets in your blood. The medical name for platelets is thrombocytes (THROM-bo-sites).

What is a Normal Platelet Count?

Platelet count is the number of platelets in the blood. A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 350,000. If the number of platelets is too low, excessive bleeding can occur. The medical name for a low platelet count is thrombocytopenia (throm-bo-sigh-toe-PEE-nee-uh).

What Causes a Low Platelet Count?

Some things can affect how well the bone marrow can produce platelets. When not enough platelets are made, the platelet count in your blood is too low. Chemotherapy and some radiation therapy can cause this temporarily. These cancer treatments can slow the production of platelets in the bone marrow. Another cause of a low platelet count is cancer of the bone marrow. Other conditions can result in a low platelet count as well.

How Will a Low Platelet Count Affect Me?

A platelet count below 50,000 is low. When your platelet count is low, you may bruise or bleed more easily than usual. A platelet count below 20,000 is very low. When it’s this low, you may bleed even when you are not injured. If your platelet count is very low, your doctor may order platelet transfusions until your count returns to a safe level.

What Should I Do for a low Platelet Count?

For a low platelet count below 50,000, you must take precautions. Follow the guidelines below to help prevent or stop bleeding.

  • Do not take any medicine, including over-the-counter drugs, without your doctor’s approval. It is very important to avoid aspirin and other drugs that contain aspirin. If you are not sure about a medicine, ask your doctor.
  • Use a soft-bristle tooth brush. Do not use dental floss.
  • Do not have dental work without your doctor’s approval. If you must have dental work, tell your dentist that you have a low platelet count.
  • Do not do heavy lifting, contact sports, or strenuous exercise.
  • Do not walk in bare feet.
  • If you feel weak and unsteady, have someone help you when walking.
  • Avoid cutting your nails. Use an emery board to care for your nails.
  • When shaving, do not use a razor blade. Use an electric razor instead.
  • Be careful when using household tools, such as knives and scissors.
  • If you get a cut, place a clean cloth or a piece of gauze over the cut, then apply pressure for a few minutes. If your cut continues to bleed, lie down and stay calm. Keep applying pressure. If possible, use an ice pack to apply pressure. Get emergency care for any of the following:
      • A large loss of blood
      • Bleeding that continues after 10 minutes of pressure
      • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Do not bend over with your head lower than your shoulders. Bend from the knees, and keep your head up.
  • Do not blow your nose forcefully.
  • If you get a nose bleed, sit upright. Tilt forward to allow the blood to drip out. Then apply firm pressure to your nostrils, below the bridge of your nose. Get emergency care for any of the following:
      • Bleeding that gets worse after 10 minutes
      • Bleeding that does not stop completely after 30 minutes
  • Do not wear tight clothing.
  • Do not use alcohol.
  • Prevent constipation. Drink plenty of fluids, and get enough fiber in your meals.
  • Do not strain to move your bowels. Tell your doctor if you are constipated. He or she may prescribe a stool softener.
  • Do not use rectal suppositories, enemas, or vaginal douches.
  • If you are a woman having your period, do not use tampons. Use pads instead. If you have menstrual flow that is heavier or lasts longer than usual, tell your doctor or nurse.
  • Keep the phone numbers of your doctor and the local EMS (emergency medical service) at hand.

When Do I Call the Doctor?

If you have any of the following, call your doctor or nurse right away:

  • Bleeding from your mouth or gums
  • Nose bleeds
  • Bruises on your arms or legs, with or without an injury
  • Pinpoint-size, red or purple spots on your skin
  • Brown or red urine
  • Black, tarry stool or bloody stool
  • Blood in your mucus
  • Vomiting blood
  • Vaginal spotting
  • Long or heavy menstrual flow
  • Persistent headache
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Abdominal pain 

©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com