Your blood is made up of cells that have vast functions that ensure you are kept in health. That you cannot see them does not mean they are not relevant. In fact, it is the little things that ignite big problems when overlooked. So is it with your body. When one of the cells is not functioning well, a problem will ensue. One of such problem that can ensue is an acquired platelet function disorder. The cell affected is the platelets. Have you ever sustained an injury before? Or let’s assume you have seen someone having one. You see blood gushing out, right? If the injury is a small one, applying pressure to it might stop the bleeding. But if it is a deep and large one, you will see some thick blood after sometime when attempts have been made by any health personnel to stop the bleeding. That thick blood that covers the face of the injury is called a blood clot. If that clot does not form in the point where the cut is sustained, the person will keep losing blood. And also, that clot will make the wound to heal faster. Those are platelets at work. That is what they do. If anything, therefore, happens to the cells and their functions, a disorder is just by the corner. But in this case, the disorder is acquired platelet function disorder. Drugs, diseases, supplements, and foods can have drastic effects on platelet functions. They can determine whether they will perform their functions well or poorly.
Platelets do not work alone. They always work with clotting factors. Clotting factors are a type of proteins. Platelets are ‘smart guys’. I call them so because whenever your blood vessels are damaged to the point where you sustain an injury, they are the first to get to that damaged blood vessel. They will immediately cover the injured point layer upon layer. They do this so as to prevent further blood loss. These layers of platelet will end up forming something like a plug. The formation of a platelet plug is the first step in arresting bleeding. This plug is further strengthened with time to ensure that the wound heals up. A person who has a platelet disorder will not be able to form this plugs whenever he has an injury. The person can bleed to death from a slight injury or from a surgical procedure.
Symptoms of acquired platelet function disorder
These Symptoms vary within two extremes of being mild or being severe. Some of the symptoms include; bleeding under your skin, bruising throughout the body, blood-stained vomit and feces, internal bleeding, nose bleeding, gum and mouth bleeding, heavy and prolonged menstrual flow, muscles and joints bleeding, and petechiae (small red bumps on your skin).
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Causes of acquired platelet function disorder
Platelet function anomalies can be caused by four things — foods, diseases, supplements, and medications. They can disturb your platelet function. That is, they can affect platelet signaling, make them less sticky and can even affect the clotting process.
Although scientific studies are yet to reveal how these factors affect platelet functions they can only note the changes they cause.
Let’s consider some of the medications that can affect platelet functions. They are asthma medications, aspirin, antibiotics, chemotherapy drugs, antihistamines, calcium channel blockers, cocaine, antidepressant drugs, antipsychotic drugs, Viagra, statins (cholesterol-lowering drugs), pain relievers(ibuprofen, naproxen etc.), anti-blood clotting drugs (i.e. Plavix)
Dietary supplements and food that can affect platelet functions include vitamin E, ginkgo biloba, omega-3 fatty acids (i.e fish oil), garlic, ginger, dong quai, ginseng, turmeric, willow bark, cloves, nitrites in foods (meats, bacon), etc.
Diseases that can bring about an anomaly in the functions of platelets; chronic myeloproliferative disorders, leukemia, autoimmune responses, myelodysplastic syndrome, liver insufficiency, acquired von Willebrand disease, kidney failure, heart disease, disseminated intravascular coagulation, paraproteinemia, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura-hemolytic uremic syndrome (TTP-HUS).
Diagnosis of acquired platelet function disorder
Several steps are involved in its diagnosis. One of the first things that will be done in this regard is finding out your medical history; whether you have bleeding disorders, or whether you have been on certain supplements and medications. You should not hide any useful information from your doctor because it will go a long way in making his job to diagnose you easier and faster.
Laboratory tests will be employed to find the actual cause. What laboratory tests to expect;
A complete blood test or count: In a complete blood test count, all the different blood types in your body are counted. Each cell type has a range of what is called normal. From this count, the abnormal can be figured out. Red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets are the different blood cell types found in the body.
- Prothrombin time: it is attested that assesses how short or long it takes for your blood to clot.
- Partial thromboplastin time: It is abbreviated as PPT. it is also a time marker for determining clotting time.
- Bleeding time: It is a test that studies the time it takes for you to stop bleeding after sustaining an injury.
- Platelet aggregation studies: Platelets at times can be quite sticky. This study assesses it.
- Platelet counts: From the name, you can infer that it attempts to count all the platelets in your blood.
- Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) or creatinine test: Urea and creatinine are markers of the integrity of the kidney. This test, therefore, evaluates how well your kidney is functioning.
And in cases where your doctor suspects there is an underlying medical condition causing the platelet disorder, he will attempt to diagnose it.
Treatment for acquired platelet function disorder
Treatment for this problem can come in three forms based on what is to be achieved.
- Whether your doctor wants to as a matter of emergency, arrest the bleeding
- Whether your doctor wants to treat the underlying condition responsible for the clotting disorder
- Whether your doctor wants to reduce your bleeding risk during surgery
Let’s consider each of those goals submitted above.
This is a short-term approach to handling active bleeding. There are several options for this. Platelet infusion, clotting factor prescription, etc. blood platelet can be donated and by someone or it can be gotten from a blood bank. It will be screened and then infused into your blood. Clotting factors can also be given to you. They will make your blood to clot so as to stop bleeding. One of the most common drug if desmopressin. It will activate and release blood clotting factors in your body.
Handling the underlying conditions
When the cause of your bleeding is due to a diseased condition in your body, your doctor will make attempts to discover what it actually is. This will now inform him on what should be done. If your bleeding is not a strong one, your doctor will work towards preventing subsequent bleedings. Let’s assume the bleeding was because of one medication or supplement that you are taking, your doctor will ask you to stop taking it.
When the cause of the problem is genetic, then it might be impossible to treat. Your doctor will only work at helping you to be relieved of the symptoms and help you live comfortably health wise.
Minimizing surgical bleeding risks
If you have previously been diagnosed with a platelet disorder, it is advisable to notify your doctor about it. This will help him know how to help you minimize your risk of suffering from a heavy bleed. This might mean boosting your platelets and clotting factors with medication or even getting a platelet infusion as the case may be. But platelet infusion is usually administered in severe cases and it can be before, during or after the surgery. It can even be a combination of the three – before, during and after.
If you are very good at patronizing drug stores for aspirin or OTC (other over-the-counter) drugs, you should desist from such as most of the OTC drugs contain aspirin especially pain relievers. They have the ability to induce bleeding.
Resolving platelet issues are most times very easy. You just have to know what drug or food you are taking that is inducing it and then stop taking them. There are other platelet problems that are not easily resolved especially if what is responsible for it is a serious abnormality. It is the cause of the platelet disorder and how serious it is that will define how long it will for it to be fully treated.