Signs, Symptoms, and Complications of Thrombocytopenia

Mild to serious bleeding causes the main signs and symptoms of thrombocytopenia. Bleeding can occur inside your body (internal bleeding) or underneath your skin or from the surface of your skin (external bleeding).

Signs and symptoms can appear suddenly or over time. Mild thrombocytopenia often has no signs or symptoms. Many times, it's found during a routine blood test.

Check with your doctor if you have any signs of bleeding. Severe thrombocytopenia can cause bleeding in almost any part of the body. Bleeding can lead to a medical emergency and should be treated right away.

External bleeding usually is the first sign of a low platelet count. External bleeding may cause purpura (PURR-purr-ah) or petechiae (peh-TEE-key-ay). Purpura are purple, brown, and red bruises. This bruising may happen easily and often. Petechiae are small red or purple dots on your skin.

Purpura and Petechiae


The photograph shows purpura (bruises) and petechiae (red and purple dots) on the skin.
The photograph shows purpura (bruises) and petechiae (red and purple dots) on the skin. Bleeding under the skin causes the purple, brown, and red color of the purpura and petechiae.


Other signs of external bleeding include:

  • Prolonged bleeding, even from minor cuts
  • Bleeding or oozing from the mouth or nose, especially nosebleeds or bleeding from brushing your teeth
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding (especially heavy menstrual flow)

A lot of bleeding after surgery or dental work also might suggest a bleeding problem.

Heavy bleeding into the intestines or the brain (internal bleeding) is serious and can be fatal. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Blood in the urine or stool or bleeding from the rectum. Blood in the stool can appear as red blood or as a dark, tarry color. (Taking iron supplements also can cause dark, tarry stools.)
  • Headaches and other neurological symptoms. These problems are very rare, but you should discuss them with your doctor.


Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.