Treatment for thrombocytopenia depends on its cause and severity. The main goal of treatment is to prevent death and disability caused by bleeding.
If your condition is mild, you may not need treatment. A fully normal platelet count isn't necessary to prevent bleeding, even with severe cuts or accidents.
Thrombocytopenia often improves when its underlying cause is treated. People who inherit the condition usually don't need treatment.
If a reaction to a medicine is causing a low platelet count, your doctor may prescribe another medicine. Most people recover after the initial medicine has been stopped. For heparin-induced thrombocytopenia (HIT), stopping the heparin isn't enough. Often, you'll need another medicine to prevent blood clotting.
If your immune system is causing a low platelet count, your doctor may prescribe medicines to suppress the immune system.
If your thrombocytopenia is severe, your doctor may prescribe treatments such as medicines, blood or platelet transfusions, or splenectomy.
Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, also called steroids for short. Steroids may slow platelet destruction. These medicines can be given through a vein or by mouth. One example of this type of medicine is prednisone.
The steroids used to treat thrombocytopenia are different from illegal steroids taken by some athletes to enhance performance.
Your doctor may prescribe immunoglobulins or medicines like rituximab to block your immune system. These medicines are given through a vein. He or she also may prescribe other medicines, such as eltrombopag or romiplostim, to help your body make more platelets. The former comes as a tablet to take by mouth and the latter is given as an injection under the skin.
Blood or platelet transfusions are used to treat people who have active bleeding or are at a high risk of bleeding. During this procedure, a needle is used to insert an intravenous (IV) line into one of your blood vessels. Through this line, you receive healthy blood or platelets.
For more information about this procedure, go to the Health Topics Blood Transfusion article.
A splenectomy is surgery to remove the spleen. This surgery may be used if treatment with medicines doesn't work. This surgery mostly is used for adults who have immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). However, medicines often are the first course of treatment.
Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Thrombocytopenia, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.
August 19, 2014
Gary H. Gibbons
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The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.