A reduction in the number of platelets in the blood, resulting in a tendency to bleed. Sometimes thrombocytopenic purpura (abnormal bleeding into the skin) develops. The cause may be a reduced rate of platelet production or fast rate of platelet destruction. Thrombocytopenia can be a feature of leukaemia, lymphoma, systemic lupus erythematosus, megaloblastic anaemia, or hypersplenism. It can also be caused by exposure to radiation or, more often, by an adverse reaction to a prescribed drug such as a thiazide diuretic. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is of unknown cause, but it may be an autoimmune disorder. Thrombocytopenia is confirmed by a blood count. Any underlying disease is treated if possible. Children with ITP may not need treatment, but adults are usually given corticosteroid drugs. If thrombocytopenia persists, splenectomy may be performed. When the cause is known, treatment usually results in an increase in platelet numbers.


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