Platelets and Thrombocytopenia
Platelets, or thrombocytes, are small, colorless cell fragments in our blood that form clots and stop or prevent bleeding. Platelets are made in our bone marrow, the sponge-like tissue inside our bones. Bone marrow contains stem cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
Platelets and other blood components are always needed. One donation could help save more than one life. Be a hero!
Platelets control bleeding in our bodies, so they can be essential to surviving surgeries such as organ transplant, as well as fighting cancer, chronic diseases, and traumatic injuries. Donor platelets are given to patients who don’t have enough of their own, a condition known as thrombocytopenia, or when a person’s platelets aren’t working correctly. Raising the patient’s blood platelet count reduces the risk of dangerous or even fatal bleeding.
A low platelet count occurs when:
- A person’s bone marrow is damaged and unable to make enough of its own platelets. This can be caused by certain cancers, such as Leukemia – and it can also be caused by cancer treatments.
- Platelets have been lost due to severe bleeding, such as following a traumatic injury or during surgery.
- Platelets have been destroyed by autoimmune diseases, certain medicines, infections, or other conditions.
- The patient’s spleen, which filters the blood stream, removes too many platelets.
Symptoms of low platelets include bruising easily and unusual bleeding, such as excessive bleeding from a small cut or blood in urine or stool.
Low platelet count is a major side effect of cancer treatment. Some types of chemotherapy can damage bone marrow, reducing platelet production. (This damage is usually temporary.) Other times, the cancer itself causes the problem. Leukemia and lymphoma can invade the bone marrow and prevent the patient’s body from producing the platelets it needs.
Without a platelet transfusion, these cancer patients face life-threatening bleeding.
Your platelet donation helps people like Olivia Stoy, a spunky 12 yr old fighting T lymphoblastic lymphoma.
"She was a new person comparing our drive to the hospital on Friday and when we left the hospital Friday night! I just can’t put it in to words!”
- Megan Stoy describing how platelets help her daughter Olivia who is fighting cancer.
In a platelet-only donation, blood is drawn from your arm into a machine. The platelets are separated from the other blood components, which are returned to you through your other arm. This cycle repeats several times. Using this process, one donor can contribute what would normally be obtained from up to five whole blood donations – an amount that can help as many as three people.
Learn more about donating platelets and how it is different from a whole blood donation.
Every 15 seconds someone needs platelets – that’s about 2 million units of platelets being transfused each year in the U.S. Since platelets must be used within 5 days of donation, platelet donors are constantly needed. Making a platelet-only donation means your generosity can help one, two, or even three patients!