Blood disorders, Part III

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By Penelope A. Domogo, MD

“The normal platelet count in the blood is 150,000 to 450,000 per microliter of blood. Just like the red blood cells and white blood cells, they are also manufactured in the bone
marrow.“

We are now on the last part of this series on blood disorders. Part I discussed red blood cells and anemia, Part II discussed white blood cells and leukemia. Today, we will discuss platelets and platelet disorders. As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, there are 4 major components on the blood – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets and plasma. Blood disorders, though, refer to disorders concerning the RBCs, WBCs and platelets. Plasma is the liquid in the blood that transports all these cells and nutrients and other substances to various parts of our body.
We will first talk about platelets and their functions. Platelets are the smallest cells in the blood and they look like small plates (thus the name) in their non-active form, that is when they are just swimming in the blood. They help the body form clots to stop bleeding when there is injury or leak in the blood vessels. If any of the blood vessels get damaged, the body automatically detects it and calls the platelets to the damaged site. So how do you fix a leaking faucet? You plug the hole with something. For platelets, it is amazing how they fix injuries in the blood vessel. When they reach the injured blood vessel, they transform into their active form- they grow tentacles (and look like spider or octopus) and form scaffolding for other substances to fill thus they themselves patch up the hole and later complete the healing. This process happens quickly and automatically- just in seconds- try to notice if you have a cut. The bleeding will stop on the count of three. For small cuts, anyway.
The normal platelet count in the blood is 150,000 to 450,000 per microliter of blood. Just like the red blood cells and white blood cells, they are also manufactured in the bone marrow.
Above 450,000, the condition is called thrombocytosis. Symptoms of this would be spontaneous blood clots in the arms or legs and if left untreated, it may lead to a stroke or heart attack. Causes of too many platelets usually are certain diseases or medications. Thus the platelet count could return to normal when the underlying cause is treated.
Below 150,000 platelets is termed thrombocytopenia and can be recognized when there’s easy bruising, frequent bleeding from nose or gums or stomach. This can also be the result of certain diseases like dengue, certain cancers, chemotherapy for cancer or kidney disorders. The platelet count will return to normal if the underlying cause is gets well or remedied. Otherwise, platelet transfusion may be necessary.
There’s a condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) or autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura (ATP) where the platelet count is low because the body produces antibodies against the platelets. The body cannot recognize anymore the platelets as it’s own so it destroys them. Ugh. Studies show that this illness may be caused by medications or certain infections. It’s difficult, though, to pinpoint a specific cause. Usually this ITP affects children and is a temporary condition, with the platelet count returning to normal on its own after about 6 months.
Your platelet count may also be normal but if they stick together so much, they can still form undesirable blood clots. Same case with your red blood cells and white blood cells. They maybe normal in shape and quantity but they can form abnormal clots together with the platelets if the plasma is sticky. This can lead to a stroke or heart attack. This takes us to the quality of your plasma.
The quality of the plasma, just like the various blood cells and other body cells, depend of what we put in our mouth – food and drink and the air we breathe (think of cigarette smoke). So if you consume a lot of sugary, fatty foods plus other artificial chemicals which enter our blood, then your plasma will be gooey and sticky. The good news is that by taking good care of our diet and lifestyle, we promote the health of, not only our blood cells and plasma, but our whole body as well. God is good!***
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“The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.” Proverbs 19:8


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