Blood is the source of life in mammals and through its many important functions it provides nutrition to the body, protects it, prevents blood loss while also reaching oxygen to all parts of the body. Have you ever thought about the composition of blood or how its various components work? Of many properties, blood clotting is one of the most important properties ascribed to blood, one that is particularly important when your body sustains injury and prevents your body from losing blood through the wound. Clotting stops the bleeding and prevents exsanguination. A proper functioning of the clotting system is extremely important for your body to function effortlessly through the many decades of your life.
Blood is primarily made up of cells and plasma. The blood cells may be red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Platelets, also termed as thrombocytes (thromb + cytes = cells that clot), are the cells that circulate within our blood and bind together to form a clot when they recognize damaged blood vessels. This prevents blood from escaping the damaged blood vessels. Websites like Thrombocyte.com discuss the same in greater detail.
Important Properties of Platelets
To understand the importance of platelets and their functions, let us discuss some of their properties:
- Thrombocytes are the smallest cells in the blood and can only be seen under the microscope.
- Adult platelets are about 2 to 3 micrometers in diameter and remain alive for 5 to 9 days.
- Platelets are shaped like “small plates” and hence the name “platelet”.
- Thrombocytes resemble red blood cells in not having a nucleus and are also similarly not capable of undergoing mitosis or cell division.
- Platelets represent only a small fraction of blood as compared to white blood cells despite their prolific nature, because of their small size.
- Platelets are formed from megakaryocytes within the bone marrow. Each megakaryocyte multiplies through a process known as thrombopoiesis and produces 5000 to 10,000 platelets.
- Normal platelet count ranges from 1,50,000 to 4,50,000 per microliter of blood.
- About two-third of the platelets are circulating in the blood while one-third is stored in the spleen.
- Old platelets are destroyed in the spleen and liver.
- Interestingly, thrombocytes are found only in mammals.
High or Low Platelet Count – How does it affect your body?
A platelet count of more than 4,50,000 per microliter of blood is termed as thrombocytosis while a platelet count of less than 1,50,000 per microliter of blood is termed as thrombocytopenia. Excess or deficiency of platelets causes an imbalance in the blood clotting mechanism and can lead to an abnormal tendency to excessively clot or bleed respectively.
Thrombocytosis can lead to an abnormal tendency to clot spontaneously, particularly in the arms and legs, and when mixed with other predisposing factors favours the development of heart attack, stroke or sudden death. The cause may be unknown in primary or essential thrombocytosis, or cause such as anaemia, cancer, inflammation or infection is identified in secondary thrombocytosis.
Thrombocytopenia, on the other hand, leads to an abnormal tendency to bleed, causing easy bruising, bleeding from gums, nose and gastrointestinal tract. Platelet count drops especially when something is preventing your body from producing more platelets such as medications, inherited conditions, cancers like leukaemia or lymphoma, chemotherapy, kidney infection or dysfunction or excessive alcohol consumption.
Thus, both low and high platelets can negatively impact your body's functioning. To know whether you have just the right number of platelets running through your blood, you can get a blood test named complete blood count, also commonly known as CBC. This will tell you your platelet count along with your other blood cell counts.
What Should You Do Now?
You have now understood the importance of maintaining a healthy composition of platelets in your blood. Maintaining the right number of platelets in your body will help prevent excessive clotting or bleeding, preventing complications such as excessive bleeding or clotting, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. Besides, it also helps to maintain a number of other functions within the body to keep you in good shape.
You should therefore check your platelets from time to time, ensuring that they are the right size, shape and composition. It is also a good idea to let your doctor know if anyone in your family has a hereditary condition that runs in the family. Often, you might not even know that you have a problem related to your platelets if you do not have any symptoms. Only a simple blood test – the CBC, can tell you whether you have sufficient quantity of thrombocytes for healthy living. Go ahead, get one today!