The PLT blood test helps to determine what the platelet count happens to be in the blood. It is a common test that is often included as part of a complete blood count. It may also be ordered whenever there is a specific issue related to blood clotting that may need evaluation. Platelets are small cell fragments that help the blood form clots and are needed for normal blood functioning. When there are abnormal results, then there may be bleeding or clotting disorders that require treatment.
The PLT blood test is also commonly ordered for individuals that are taking medications that can affect the platelets. This includes anticoagulant medications like warfarin. Some individuals taking a low-dose aspirin therapy may also have this blood test ordered from time to time.
Some medical providers may also order this test with other blood test that measure coagulation factors to determine the functionality of the platelets. This may also include blood smears to examine platelets that are clumping together inappropriately for some reason.
When To See a Doctor About the PLT Blood Test
The PLT blood test will be ordered any time an individual presents with signs or symptoms that are reflective of a bleeding disorder or a low platelet count. The most common symptom is bruising that occurs frequently and easily, often without an explanation for the bruise. There may also be prolonged bleeding from small wounds, numerous nosebleeds, or small red spots on the skin that can sometimes look like a rash. There may also be small purple spots under the skin.
Women may also experience heavier than normal bleeding during their menstrual cycle when there is a platelet issue occurring. There may also be the symptoms of a bleeding ulcer present due to gastrointestinal bleeding.
Excessive clotting symptoms will also trigger a PLT blood test. This includes excessive clotting at inappropriate locations. Many people with excessive clotting issues don’t have any signs or symptoms of a disorder, however, which is why this blood test is ordered as part of the regular checkup process.
What Do My Test Results Mean?
Abnormal PLT blood test results fall into two basic categories: a low count or a high count. Low platelet counts are generally caused by bone marrow disorders or conditions within the body where the platelets are used or destroyed more frequently than they can be replaced. This may be the result of viral infections, high drug use, leukemia and other cancers of the bone marrow, autoimmune disorders, or damage to the liver.
A PLT blood test result that is less than 20,000 per microliter is considered a medical emergency because it means spontaneous bleeding may occur. Transfusions will be immediately ordered if this is the test result.
A high platelet count occurs when there are certain infectious diseases present, such as tuberculosis. Inflammatory conditions also increase platelet counts, as do certain types of anemia. People who have had their spleen removed will almost always have high platelet counts. Certain cancers also elevate platelet levels, with the most common cancer being lung cancer. Women who take birth control pills will normally have high platelet counts.
An iron deficiency, B12 deficiency, or folate deficiency can also cause an increased level of platelets until the health issue is resolved. Recovering from blood loss or high levels of alcohol consumption will result in temporarily high platelet counts. Some people experience high counts after a prolonged period of exercise.
Here’s What You Need to Know
Platelet counts can vary from day to day. Women especially can see up to a 5% change in their platelet count depending on their diet activities and where they are in their menstruation cycle.
People who live at high altitudes will have increased platelet counts automatically. This can create a potentially dangerous situation when combined with estrogen supplements and certain oral contraceptives, especially if strenuous exercise occurs on a frequent basis as well. Mild abnormal PLT blood test results may be treated as normal based on the environment, lifestyle choices, and other health factors.
The PLT blood test can be used to quickly catch a potential health disorder and treat it at its early stages. It can also be used to monitor a treatment plan or verify that a person is in good health. If you suspect that you may be affected by a clotting disorder, then speak to your doctor about the benefits of having this test ordered. It could give you the information you need to improve or maintain your health.