Platelets, also called thrombocytes, are tiny components of your blood that help with clotting. Platelets are your body’s natural bandage to stop bleeding.
Your platelets function to stop bleeding. During an injury, your platelets will cluster together at the site of the wound to act as a plug, sealing blood vessels in a process called clotting to prevent excess blood from leaving your body.
Yes, you can donate your platelets in a process similar to donating blood plasma. To do so, your healthcare provider will draw blood from one arm and place it into a centrifuge machine, which quickly spins and separates the components of your blood. The machine removes platelets from your blood and the remaining blood components return to your body through a vein in your opposite arm. Platelet donations help individuals who have chronic illnesses, cancer or serious injuries.
Platelets are components in your blood and spleen. Whole blood consists of plasma, red and white blood cells and platelets. Since platelets are the lightest component of whole blood, they are pushed to the walls of your blood vessels, allowing plasma and blood cells to flow through the center, which helps platelets reach injury quickly to prevent bleeding.
Platelets are small, colorless fragments of cells. Platelets form in the shape of a plate, which is where they get their name. Proteins on the exterior of your platelet walls are sticky to help it adhere to your blood vessels. When actively clotting, platelets extend filaments that resemble legs on a spider. These legs make contact with the broken blood vessel and other clotting factors to seal the damage and stop the bleeding.
Platelets and white blood cells make up 1% of your whole blood along with plasma (55% total volume) and red blood cells (44% total volume). There is about one platelet for every 20 red blood cells in your body. In a single drop of blood, there are tens of thousands of platelets.
Platelets form in the soft tissue of your bones (bone marrow). The largest cells in your bone marrow (megakaryocytes) make platelets.
During a complete blood count test (CBC), your healthcare provider will remove a sample of your blood from your vein to test how many white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets are in the sample. A normal platelet count for adults ranges from 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. Any count above 450,000 or below 150,000 would be risk factors for platelet-related conditions.
There are two conditions that are the result of an abnormal platelet count:
Abnormal cells in your bone marrow cause your platelet count to be too high. The reason for abnormal cell formation is unknown.
Potential causes for low platelet count include:
In most cases, managing pre-existing medical conditions can improve low platelet counts.
If your platelet count is too low (thrombocytopenia), you won’t have enough platelets to clot a wound. In the event of an injury, you may bleed too much and it could be difficult to stop. Low platelet count can lead to excessive blood loss, hemorrhaging and internal bleeding, which could be life-threatening.
Severe cases of bleeding inside of your body and underneath your skin as a result of not having enough platelets is a bleeding disorder called immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). This condition causes tiny red and purple dots on your skin (petechiae) that resembles a rash along with bruises from blood vessels under your skin (purpura). Treatment to increase your platelet count improves your prognosis for ITP.
If your platelet count is too high, platelets will stick together and cause unnecessary clotting in your blood vessels. Blood clots could lead to heart attack and stroke.
Common symptoms of platelet conditions include:
Tests that check the health of your platelets include:
Common treatments for platelet conditions include:
If your blood platelet count is too high, your healthcare provider will recommend a treatment plan to address your health concern. Solutions to decrease your blood platelet count include:
There aren’t any specific lifestyle changes that will increase your blood platelet count. The best option is treating underlying medical conditions and working closely with your healthcare provider to find a treatment plan that works best with your body.
You can keep your blood platelets healthy by:
Platelet-rich plasma assists in healing and/or repairing injuries to your body, including sports injuries, joint sprains, pulled muscles, liver disease and large wounds. Platelet-rich plasma forms after a sample of your blood is withdrawn and placed into a centrifuge machine, which separates your whole blood into layers. Plasma and platelets separate from red and white blood cells, and your healthcare provider will inject the platelet-rich plasma to the site of your injury via a shot.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Platelets are a vital portion of your blood that help you recover from injury quickly. Take steps to improve the health of your platelets by managing any pre-existing medical conditions and being cautious to avoid injury.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/28/2022.