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acquired platelet function disorder

Alternative Names 
acquired qualitative platelet disorder

An acquired platelet function disorder refers to an abnormality in the clotting ability of the platelets which develops sometime after birth. Platelets are a type of cell found in the blood. Various disorders can affect the normal function of platelets, which is primarily to help blood clot.

What is going on in the body? 
Platelets, along with a number of other substances in the blood, help blood to clot. When a person cuts himself or herself, blood must clot, or turn solid, to stop the bleeding. When platelets lose their ability to function for any reason, abnormal bleeding and bruising may occur.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition? 
An acquired platelet function disorder may cause no symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur, they are usually mild, unless the person has another blood-clotting problem. Symptoms may include:
  • easy bruising
  • petechiae, which are small red dots on the skin that signal tiny areas of bleeding
  • nose bleeds
  • abnormally heavy bleeding from cuts or other injuries
What are the causes and risks of the condition? 
There are many possible causes of acquired platelet function defect. Common causes include: What can be done to prevent the condition? 
Most cases of acquired platelet function defect cannot be prevented. Avoiding alcohol abuse, the most common cause of cirrhosis, could prevent many cases due to liver disease.

How is the condition diagnosed? 
Diagnosis of acquired platelet function defect begins with a history and physical examination. A blood test called a full blood count, or FBC, is often done first. This test counts the number of cells in the blood. It is important to make sure there are a normal number of platelets, because a low number of platelets can cause similar symptoms.

If the platelet count is normal, a test called the bleeding time can help confirm the diagnosis. In this test, the forearm is scratched to cause a small area of bleeding. The amount of time it takes for the scratch to stop bleeding is then measured. When the platelets are not working properly, this time will be longer than normal.

More specialised tests of platelet function may also be done. These tests can help detect the exact type and severity of the problem.

What are the long-term effects of the condition? 
Most long-term effects are related to the cause of the acquired platelet function defect. For example, cases due to medications usually go away when the medication is stopped. These cases may cause no long-term effects. If the cause is cancer or liver disease, death may result from these conditions. In rare cases, platelet function problems can cause serious abnormal bleeding, such as into the brain.

What are the risks to others? 
Acquired platelet function disorders are not contagious and pose no risk to others.

What are the treatments for the condition? 
Treatment depends on the cause. If the cause is a medication, the medication can be stopped and the problem usually goes away. In cases due to other causes, treatment is directed at the cause when possible. Someone with blood cancer may need chemotherapy. An individual with systemic lupus erythematosus may need medications to suppress the immune system, such as prednisone.

Regardless of the cause, a platelet transfusion, which is similar to a blood transfusion, can be given if severe bleeding occurs. Rarely, a drug called DDAVP is used when platelet bleeding problems occur in a person with kidney failure.

What are the side effects of the treatments? 
Aspirin and NSAIDs can cause stomach upset, ulcers, and kidney damage. Prednisone can cause weight gain, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. A platelet transfusion may cause an allergic reaction or infection. DDVAP may cause fluid retention and high blood pressure.

What happens after treatment for the condition? 
If the condition is caused by a medication, it will go away after the medication is stopped. No further treatment may be needed in these cases. Those with more serious causes, such as cancer or liver failure, often need further treatment for these conditions.

How is the condition monitored? 
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor. Tests of platelet function may also be repeated in some cases.

Author: Thomas Fisher, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 22/09/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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