Bleeding and low platelets (thrombocytopenia)

Thrombocytopenia refers to a reduction in your normal levels of functional platelets, which can increase your risk of bruising and bleeding.

What is Thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia refers to a reduction in the normal levels of functional platelets, which can increase your risk of bruising and bleeding.

What causes low platelets?

Low platelet counts can occur due to disease or can be side effects of chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.

What are the symptoms of thrombocytopenia?

You may bleed for longer than normal after minor cuts or scrapes, have nosebleeds or bleeding gums, or bruise easily1. These could also be accompanied by symptoms of anaemia, which include:

Fatigue and tiredness

Pale skin

Difficulty catching your breath

Dizziness

How can low platelet levels be prevented/managed?

Your doctor will monitor your platelet level with blood tests if you are at risk of low platelets.

To help prevent injury/bleeding when you are at risk of or have low platelets, you should:

  • use an electric razor
  • use a soft tooth brush and avoid dental floss or toothpicks
  • wear gloves and protective shoes in the garden
  • avoid using aspirin and ibuprofen like medications for pain relief (talk to your care team for further information)

If you experience minor bleeding, basic first aid principles apply:

  • apply direct pressure on the wound
  • elevate the injured limb if possible
  • rest

A platelet transfusion may be necessary depending on your clinical situation. You can get further information from your care team or access the Australian Red Cross Blood Service factsheet “I need to know about platelets”.

When should I seek help from a health professional?

You should report signs and symptoms of anaemia to your care team. You should go to the nearest hospital emergency department or call an ambulance if any of the following develops:

  • rectal bleeding
  • blood in the urine
  • coughing blood
  • vomiting blood
  • nose bleeds

References

For a full list of references, click here.
  1. Cancer Council Victoria (2020). Side effects of chemotherapy. Retrieved 14 October 2020 from https://www.cancervic.org.au/cancer-information/treatments/treatments-types/chemotherapy/side_effects_of_chemotherapy.html

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