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Thrombocytopenia

What is thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia is a condition in which there are too few platelets in the blood. Platelets are the cells that are needed for clotting. They are made in the bone marrow .

What causes thrombocytopenia?

Thrombocytopenia may be caused by infections in the baby while it's in the womb, or right after he or she is born. Some of these infections include:

  • Rubella or syphilis

  • Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections

A baby can also get it if a mother's immune system produces antibodies against the baby's platelets. Some medications taken by the mother or given to the baby can cause thrombocytopenia.

Why is thrombocytopenia a concern?

If the baby doesn't have enough platelets he or she may have bleeding into the tissues. Bruising of the skin is common. With bleeding, the red blood cells break down, producing bilirubin. Bilirubin can builds up in the blood, causing jaundice. Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin. Excessive bleeding, called hemorrhage, can be dangerous and can affect the brain and other body systems.

What are the symptoms of thrombocytopenia?

Each baby may experience symptoms differently. Some symptoms of thrombocytopenia are:

  • Bruising or petechiae (small red spots on the skin)

  • Signs of bleeding in other body systems

  • Jaundice

The symptoms of thrombocytopenia sometimes look like other conditions or medical problems. Always see your baby's health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is thrombocytopenia diagnosed?

Your baby's health care provider will check his or her medical history and do a physical examination. Laboratory tests of the blood can show decreased platelet counts.

Treatment for thrombocytopenia

Your baby's health care provider will figure out the best treatment for your baby based on:

  • How old your baby is

  • His or her overall health, and medical history

  • How sick your baby is

  • How well your baby can handle specific medications, procedures, or therapies

  • How long the disease is expected to last

  • Your opinion or preference

Treatment usually depends on the cause of the thrombocytopenia. Blood transfusion with platelets may be needed.

Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Online Medical Reviewer: Trevino, Heather M., BSN, RNC
Date Last Reviewed: 9/28/2014
© 2000-2014 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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