Thrombocytosis is a condition characterized by an elevated platelet count in the blood.
Unlike red blood cells and white blood cells, platelets (also known as thrombocytes) are fragments of cells. Platelets work in tandem with other components of blood but are an essential part of the clotting process and wound healing.
When the platelet count exceeds the normal range, it can lead to a variety of health concerns. For example, as platelets are responsible for blood clotting, having an excess can greatly increase the risk of developing blood clots. In turn, these blood clots increase the likelihood of experiencing a pulmonary embolism.
Whether you have been diagnosed with thrombocytosis or are seeking more information about it, this article will provide valuable insights into the condition. Follow along to learn more about thrombocytosis and what you can do about it.
The normal platelet count in an adult human ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood.
When platelet counts fall outside of this range, it can be diagnosed in one of three ways.
Thrombocytopenia is the opposite of thrombocytosis, as this condition occurs when the platelet count falls below 150,000 per microliter of blood.
Thrombocytopenia can be caused by various factors, including certain medications, autoimmune disorders, viral infections, and bone marrow disorders. It’s characterized by difficulty in clotting, which can lead to excessive blood loss.
Also known as essential thrombocythemia (ET), primary thrombocythemia, or essential thrombocytosis, this condition is characterized by a platelet count higher than 450,000 per microliter of blood.
Thrombocythemia occurs when the bone marrow produces an excessive number of platelets without any apparent underlying cause. It falls under the category of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), which involve abnormal growth and functioning of bone marrow cells.
Thrombocythemia is often associated with gene mutations, such as JAK2, CALR, or MPL, which disrupt the normal regulation of platelet production and lead to an elevated platelet count. Regular monitoring and appropriate management are necessary to reduce the risk of blood clots (known as thrombosis) from developing and contributing to additional complications.
Thrombocytosis, also referred to as secondary thrombocytosis, is also diagnosed when the platelet count surpasses the normal upper limit of 450,000 per microliter of blood. The difference is that this type of thrombocytosis occurs as a reactive response to an underlying condition or trigger.
Unlike primary thrombocythemia, thrombocytosis is not a medical condition itself but rather a consequence of an underlying condition. Therefore, the treatment of secondary thrombocytosis involves addressing the underlying cause.
While the cause of primary thrombocytosis is typically limited to genetic mutations in bone marrow cells, secondary thrombocytosis can have a variety of underlying causes and risk factors.
Chronic inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease can stimulate the production of platelets. Chronic inflammation triggers the release of cytokines, which in turn promotes platelet production.
Bacterial infections, especially severe or chronic ones, can also lead to reactive thrombocytosis as a response to the infection.
Iron deficiency in the body can induce thrombocytosis as a compensatory mechanism. When the body lacks iron, it produces more platelets to help maintain blood clotting function.
Iron deficiency anemia can be caused by inadequate dietary intake, malabsorption issues, or chronic blood loss.
Certain types of cancer and blood disorders, such as leukemia or lymphoma, can disrupt normal blood cell production in the bone marrow. The malignant cells crowd out healthy cells, leading to abnormal platelet production and thrombocytosis.
In cancer-related thrombocytosis, the underlying malignancy needs to be treated in order to address the elevated platelet count.
The spleen plays a crucial role in regulating platelet levels in the bloodstream. Surgical removal of the spleen, known as splenectomy, can result in an increased platelet count.
Without the spleen's regulatory function, platelets are not efficiently cleared from circulation, leading to thrombocytosis.
In many cases, thrombocytosis does not cause noticeable symptoms and is incidentally detected during routine blood tests. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:
Thrombocytosis is typically diagnosed through a comprehensive evaluation that involves several tests and assessments. These diagnostic measures aim to gather information about the platelet count, the characteristics of blood cells, and any underlying genetic mutations.
The following are commonly used diagnostic methods for thrombocytosis:
Once thrombocytosis is diagnosed, appropriate treatment and management strategies can be implemented to address the condition and minimize the risk of complications. The treatment and management of thrombocytosis depend on several factors, including the underlying cause, the severity of symptoms, and the risk of complications.
The following treatment options may be considered:
Any of these treatment methods require careful observation, and your healthcare provider will likely want to schedule regular follow-up appointments to monitor your progress. Make sure you follow their instructions and reach out to them if you have any questions or concerns, or if you notice any concerning symptoms.
Thrombocytosis is a serious condition that requires attention and appropriate management. By staying informed, seeking medical care, and utilizing available resources, you can navigate your journey with thrombocytosis more effectively.
If you or a loved one are living with thrombocytosis, Carda Health offers virtual services for cardiopulmonary rehab that can provide the support you need. Our healthcare professionals and clinical exercise physiologists specialize in in-home care and are experienced in managing cardiovascular and pulmonary conditions.
Explore our services today and take the first step towards supporting your health and well-being while dealing with thrombocytosis.