Low Platelet Count and Liver Diseases
As we all know, there are different types of liver diseases and the treatment for each of them differs. However, there is a common medical condition among patients of liver diseases that most find it hard to tackle, and that is low platelet count.
What is Low Platelet Count?
Low platelet count, also known as thrombocytopenia, is a condition in which the concentration of platelets in the blood is lower than normal, containing less than 150,000 platelets per microliter of blood, while a healthy individual would have a range of 150,000 to 400,000. Platelet is a type of blood cells that is responsible for clotting blood to stop bleeding when the skin is injured or broken. When one suffers from a low platelet count and is injured, if not treated properly and the condition is severe, fatal excessive bleeding could occur. The degree of severity of low platelet count often reflects the degree of damage of the liver.
Why do patients with liver diseases often suffer from a low platelet count?
It is not uncommon to see that patients of different types of liver diseases such as cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, and hepatitis sharing the same problem of low platelet count. This medical condition can be attributed to three major reasons.
1. Decrease in platelet production
There are two reasons for the decrease in platelet production in people with liver diseases, namely low production of thrombopoietin and suppression in bone marrow.
A hormone named thrombopoietin is produced in the liver and is responsible for regulating the production of platelets. For people with fatty liver disease, their livers are not producing thrombopoietin adequately, leading to a decrease in platelet count. Other than that, as bone marrows are responsible for the production of platelets, factors like viruses, alcohol, iron overload, and medications will suppress the production of platelets.
2. Splenic sequestration
In most cases of liver diseases, patients often experience spleen enlargement, indicating that more than the usual amount of platelets are retained in the spleen which results in low platelet count. It is due to the fact that the damaged liver no longer works properly to accept the incoming flow of blood through the portal vein, a blood vessel that pumps blood to the liver for purification through the spleen and other digestive system organs before reaching to the heart.
3. Increased platelet destruction
Aside from the decrease in platelet production that would affect platelet count, various health problems derived from a damaged liver, such as possessing antibodies that promote platelet destruction and increased fibrinolysis (the process of blood clotting) causing high consumption of platelets, also lead to a decrease in platelet count.
Ways to increase platelet count
The treatment to low platelet count largely depends on the severity of patient’s liver damage condition. Unless patients have a fatally low count of platelet, platelet transfusion is usually not necessary. Improving liver function is always one of the best ways. Research has shown that maintaining a healthy diet without raw shellfish and with sufficient nutrients of all kinds can improve liver function. Lowering or eliminating the consumption of alcohol also helps. The general key is to improve the overall condition of the liver. With a balanced diet and necessary supplements, bringing platelet count to a normal level is never a mission impossible.
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4847598/, 2016-04-15
- eMedicineHealth, https://www.emedicinehealth.com/thrombocytopenia_low_platelet_count/article_em.htm#definition_and_facts_about_thrombocytopenia_low_platelet_count
- MedicineNet.com, https://www.medicinenet.com/thrombocytopenia_low_platelet_count/article.htm#what_causes_thrombocytopenia
- WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/thrombocytopenia-causes-treatment#1
- Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-increase-platelet-count, 2017-12-12
- SCMP, http://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/health/article/1234646/those-low-platelet-count-benefit-healthy-diet, 2013-05-13
- * All research and clinical data should be used as reference purposes only, results may vary.