Low Platelet Count
Low platelet count, clinically known as thrombocytopenia, is a disorder in which there are too few platelets in the blood. The causes of the disease are numerous, and with it comes to a host of problems. We’ll explore the disorder, how it’s usually treated, and how cannabis can help.
What is Thrombocytopenia?
A normal human platelet count ranges from 150 thousand to 450 thousand platelets per microliter of blood. Platelets, or “blood clot cells,” are responsible for stopping the bleeding of a wound. When you scrape your knee, for example, platelets rush to the cut and start clotting, thereby stopping the blood loss and causing a scab to form. When platelet count drops too low, many medical complications can arise.
A low platelet count can occur for a variety of reasons. In some people, thrombocytopenia is caused by a low production of platelets by the body. Many things can cause the body to produce an insufficient amount of platelets, some of which are:
- Liver failure
- One of some hereditary syndromes
In some people, production of platelets is not the problem. Instead, the platelets are getting destroyed too rapidly. This can happen as a result of an immune disease, or an acquired disease. Additionally, some medications can cause platelet count to fall.
Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the disorder. While there are often no symptoms, particularly bad cases can manifest in numerous ways, including:
- Bleeding gums
- Inability to form scabs over wounds
If the count gets too low, the condition becomes a medical emergency; too few platelets can result in kidney failure and severe spontaneous bleeding. It is, therefore, imperative not to let the disease progress too far.
Traditional Treatment for Thrombocytopenia
As thrombocytopenia is usually a manifestation of another, more serious underlying problem, treatment is focused on curing that problem rather than the platelet count itself. However, severe cases warrant the use of a corticosteroid to raise platelet production. Additionally, lithium carbonate may be used to make bone marrow produce more platelets. With these medications come in a variety of adverse side effects, and as such are not used unless required.
In the case of a medical emergency, plasmapheresis is used. This is the process of removing the blood plasma, treating it, and returning it to the body. This option is avoided unless it’s absolutely necessary, as it is a costly and intensive procedure.
If the low platelet count is due to a genetic disease, then a bone marrow transplant is the only treatment which ultimately cures the disease.
Due to the side effects inherent in all of the above-described medications and procedures, alternatives to the above treatments are continually being assessed. One study shows promise for cannabis to be one such alternative.
Cannabis Produces Platelets
A study published in the journal Cell Cycle revealed that marijuana could treat thrombocytopenia. The researchers took a synthetic cannabinoid called 2-AG and observed its effect on the body’s ability to produce platelets. Cannabinoids are those chemical compounds in the cannabis plant that can act on the body’s cannabinoid system to create a variety of effects.
The effect of this particular cannabinoid is relatively straightforward. The study found that the 2-AG triggered a response by the body to release more platelets, thereby raising platelet count. To this end, the researchers concluded that cannabis might be effective in counteracting thrombocytopenia and related diseases by just generating a greater number of platelets.
The Final Hit
Cannabis and its extracts, being very well tolerated by the human body, can prove effective at treating a low platelet count with minimal risks to the patient. Given that cannabis is a safer alternative than current treatments used for the disorder, the study’s findings are promising. In time, and with the help of less restrictive laws surrounding the plant, a cannabis extract may become the standard in raising platelet counts among those who suffer from the disease.