Sometimes the number of platelets in the blood is lower than normal. This may be because of illness (including cancer, leukemia or certain blood disorders) or it can be a side effect of chemotherapy treatment. If the bone marrow is not working normally, the number of platelets in the blood (known as the 'platelet count') may drop. How low the number of platelets gets depends on how much the illness or the chemotherapy has affected the cells in the bone marrow.
The normal platelet count is between 150,000 and 400,000. A slightly lower platelet count will not usually cause any problems, since there are plenty to spare. A very low platelet count, however, can sometimes be serious. Signs of a low platelet count include nosebleeds, bleeding gums, heavy periods, bruising and tiny blood spots in the skin, or rashes. Very rarely, more serious bleeding (for example, into the brain or the digestive system) can occur.
In hospitals, platelet transfusions are often used to prevent the platelet count from going too low. Therefore serious bleeding due to low platelets is now very rare. The platelet transfusion will reduce the risk of any bleeding during or after any procedure.