What is the function of platelets?
Platelets function in the control of bleeding by clogging and clumping in response to blood vessel that has been injured. The blood component perform the role during the blood clotting process with the help of other coagulation factors within the blood system.
The clumping provides the initial seal to prevent bleeding, a condition that may otherwise lead to excessive loss of red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma, that could happen without the help of platelets.
Platelets function and handling
The human body is an integration of self-sustaining mechanisms made up of various systems. It is a multiplex integrated structure of systems that always require a medium to support their overall body functions. The medium is called the body fluid.
The body is made up of 90 percent fluid. Among the fluid is the blood. The blood is made up of a number of components including the red blood cells, the white blood cells, plasma, and platelets.
Platelets, also called thrombocytes, contribute significantly to body mechanisms but constitute a tiny fraction of the blood volume. An average person has platelet levels of about 150,000 to 350,000 per micro liter of blood.
A low platelet count can prove to be perilous to health. Individuals with low platelet count risks excessive bleeding especially in cases of a bruise or body cut. Medically, the condition is referred to as thrombocytopenia.
Platelets are produced in the bone marrow. This is also the case with red blood cells and nearly all of the white blood cells.
Platelets are produced from relatively large bone marrow cells called megakaryocytes. During platelet production, megakaryocytes undergo a process called fragmentation. This process results to the formation of around 1,000 platelets for each megakaryocyte.
The process of platelet production is influenced by a hormone called thrombopoietin (THPO). The protein hormone also stimulates megakaryocyte growth and maturation.
A very striking feature about platelets is not being actual true cells. They are cell fragments from megakaryocytes and without a nucleus of their own.
The composition of platelets is very important in the event of bleeding. Platelets contain special type of proteins that assist in the control of bleeding.
Also, platelets are capable to change shapes as well as extend their filaments when sealing torn blood vessel walls. It displays adaptability in their function during the blood clotting process.
4. Drugs and Disorders
Platelets can be vulnerable to certain medical disorders. It can also be altered with the intake of blood thinners, with the most common, an excessive intake of aspirin which is widely taken for the relief of fever, pain, or inflammation. The effect of aspirin includes an inhibition of platelets from clumping and bonding properly to form blood clots.
Aspirin can be highly dangerous to patients with bleeding problems. For instance, patients with hemophilia or any disorder that causes a drop in platelets are dependent on protection against bleeding.
Excessive platelets in the blood can also be an underlying platelet disorder. This condition develops when the bone marrow produces too much of the blood component (as many as one million). Increase in platelet count indicates increased risk of unnecessary blood clotting in the patient.
Conversely, few blood platelets (Thrombocytopenia) also prove to be equally dangerous. There will be very few platelets available to stop the onset of bleeding in case of a bruise.
Thrombocytopenia can develop due to destruction of platelets in the blood circulation as a result of underlying medical conditions such as Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP); a disorder where the body produces antibodies against platelets.
5. The platelet function test
The aggregation test (platelet function test), assesses how well platelets clump together and result to blood clotting. Generally, the test is meant to determine platelet function. The test is also recommended when the patient is suspected of inherited or drug-induced platelet disorder.
Laboratory test results may differ depending on gender, age, health history, method used for the test, and other various factors. When found different results from what is usually considered normal, it is not necessarily definite to conclude that the individual is bound to a condition.
An aggregation of 65 percent in adults in response to adenosine diphosphate (ADP), arachidonic acid, collagen, epinephrine, and ristocetin is considered normal.
There are some medical conditions like leukemia and medical procedures such as chemotherapy that can result to a significant decrease in platelet count. As mentioned earlier, a low platelet count can lead to serious bleeding (particularly if it occurred in the brain).
Platelet donation may be needed. This is performed by drawing whole blood from the donor into a sterile donation kit using a specialized machine. The machine is able to separate the platelet from different blood components. The remaining blood will be returned to the donor.
Generally, it requires four units for a single dose (called platelets concentrates). Any person registered as whole blood and plasma donor can also donate platelets. However, the individual should not be under any medication that can affect platelets. Platelet transfusion will be very helpful in the improvement of overall functioning of the blood of the recipient.
7. Side Effects
Platelets are naturally replaced in a few days after donation. Any healthy individual can donate platelets after two to four weeks of donation. Regular blood test is usually conducted to keep track of the platelet donor.
During the process of donation, a small amount of anticoagulant is mixed with each withdrawal to prevent the blood from clotting in a specialized machine. Considering that some of the anticoagulant may come in contact with the donor’s blood, this may at times result to a significant moment of tingling sensation on the lips and nose; but doesn’t persist for long. Other known possible reactions include shivering, a rise in temperature, itching, and skin rash.
8. Exercise and platelets
Patients with impaired platelet function can be tasked with the struggle of living normal lives. Carefully monitored and regulated activities like sporting and exercises may remain to contribute in achieving healthy living.
The human body is constantly wearing where blood vessels and capillaries degenerate. A considerable involvement in exercise and sporting activities is crucial in the repair and maintenance of the body as well as production of defensive mechanisms. Alongside, it increases the functionality of platelets in the body.
- Haynes A, Linden MD, Robey E, Naylor LH, Ainslie PN, Cox KL, Lautenschlager NT, & Green DJ (2018). Beneficial impacts of regular exercise on platelet function in sedentary older adults: evidence from a randomized 6-mo walking trial.
- Stefan Heber & Ivo Volf (2015). Effects of Physical (In)activity on Platelet Function.
9. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle
Eating healthy to promote platelets is highly recommended. This can be achieved by maintaining healthy eating habits, indulging in foods rich in iron like red meat, as well as following a diet composed of fish, cereals, beans, and vegetables.
Fatty foods, such as hamburgers, ice creams or fries should be avoided especially if you plan on donating platelets because it can affect your blood test results. It can also alter other tests used for infectious diseases that affects the blood.
10. Safety of transfusion
There are instances where individuals worry over the safety of platelets used for the transfusion process. You need not to worry. Donors usually undergo a thorough screening before being allowed for donation. This process is certainly aimed at minimizing the spread of blood transmitted diseases such as HIV. Therefore, the chances of transfusing infected blood is very slim.
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