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Thrombocytosis

Thrombocytosis (throm-boe-sie-TOE-sis) is a disorder in which your body produces too many platelets (thrombocytes), which play an important role in blood clotting. The disorder is called reactive thrombocytosis when it's caused by an underlying condition, such as an infection.

Thrombocytosis may also be caused by a blood and bone marrow disease. When caused by a bone marrow disorder, thrombocytosis is called autonomous, primary or essential thrombocytosis or essential thrombocythemia.

Your doctor may detect thrombocytosis in routine blood test results that show a high platelet level. If your blood test indicates thrombocytosis, it's important for your doctor to determine whether it's reactive thrombocytosis or if you have thrombocythemia, which is more likely to cause blood clots.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Reactive thrombocytosis rarely causes symptoms. More often, signs and symptoms relate to the underlying condition. If symptoms of reactive thrombocytosis do occur, they may include:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Fainting
  • Temporary vision changes
  • Numbness or tingling of the hands and feet

When to see a doctor

Because thrombocytosis isn't likely to cause symptoms, you probably won't know you have the condition unless a routine blood test reveals a higher than normal number of platelets. If your blood test results show a high platelet count, your doctor will try to determine the reason.

Bone marrow — spongy tissue inside your bones — contains stem cells that can become red blood cells, white blood cells or platelets. Platelets travel through your blood vessels. They stick together to form clots that stop the bleeding when you damage a blood vessel, such as when you get a cut. A normal platelet count ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood.

If you have thrombocytosis caused by a bone marrow disorder (essential thrombocythemia), your bone marrow overproduces the cells that form platelets (megakaryocytes), releasing too many platelets into your blood. If your blood test results reveal a high platelet count, it's important for your doctor to determine whether you have essential thrombocythemia or reactive thrombocytosis.

Reactive thrombocytosis causes include:

  • Acute bleeding and blood loss
  • Allergic reactions
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney failure or another kidney disorder
  • Exercise
  • Heart attack
  • Infections
  • Iron deficiency anemia
  • Removal of your spleen
  • Hemolytic anemia — a type of anemia in which your body destroys red blood cells faster than it produces them, often due to certain blood diseases or autoimmune disorders
  • Inflammation, such as from rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, connective tissue disorders or inflammatory bowel disease
  • Major surgery
  • Pancreatitis
  • Trauma

Medications that can cause reactive thrombocytosis include:

  • Epinephrine (Adrenalin Chloride, EpiPen)
  • Tretinoin
  • Vincristine

You may be at risk of thrombocytosis if you have a medical condition such as iron deficiency anemia or you've had surgery.

If your high platelet count results from a bone marrow disease (essential thrombocythemia), rather than reactive thrombocytosis, you may be at risk of developing blood clots, some of which can be life-threatening.

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