Platelets are small cells in the blood which play a critical role in clotting by clumping together and forming a plug at the site of injury. They are the body’s first line of response in preventing too much bleeding after sustaining an injury.
Platelet bleeding disorders (or platelet function disorders) refers to a wide range of disorders which result in excessive bleeding. Where a bleeding disorder is caused by the platelets not working properly, this is called a Platelet Function Disorder or PFD for short. They are caused by a failure of platelets to generate normal blood clots. Symptoms of PFDs include excessive bruising, frequent or very heavy nose bleeding, and prolonged or excessive bleeding from small cuts. In the most severe cases, PFDs can give rise to life threatening bleeds, although these are extremely rare and most troublesome bleeding is only seen following surgery or injury. Platelets are the particles that stick together to create a plug where a blood vessel has been damaged.
There are many other types of generic platelet-like bleeding disorders like ITP (immune thrombocytopenia purpura) and von Willebrand’s disease which are more prevalent. Our research and support for improved diagnosis & testing will help clinicians distinguish between these different bleeding disorders to ensure the most appropriate treatment.
The impact on daily life differs between patients with PFDs. Some individuals will only have problems after surgery, whereas some may notice bruising and bleeding very regularly. Sometimes patients with PFDs may be advised to avoid contact sports to reduce the risk of head injury, but this only happens in the most severe cases. When patients with PFDs have an accident or need an operation or dental work they would normally be advised to consult their treating medical team for advice. Some patients with PFDs will carry a “haemorrhagic states” handheld card to alert people to the fact that they bleed more easily than normal should they have an accident. These cards include details of the disorder and named contacts who can provide advice.