BY JEYANTHY PILLAI
A platelet count is a diagnostic test that determines the number of platelets in the patient’s blood. Platelets, which are also called thrombocytes, are small disk-shaped blood cells produced in the bone marrow and involved in the process of blood clotting. There are normally between 150,000-450,000 platelets in each microliter of blood. Low platelet counts or abnormally shaped platelets are associated with bleeding disorders. High platelet counts sometimes indicate disorders of the bone marrow.
The primary functions of a platelet count are to assist in the diagnosis of bleeding disorders and to monitor patients who are being treated for any disease involving bone marrow failure. Patients who have leukemia, polycythemia vera, or aplastic anemia are given periodic platelet count tests to monitor their health.
There may be many reasons why you are at risk for bleeding problems. Some of the most common reasons that you have bleeding problems include:
- That there is trauma or injury to your body.
- You may be missing some of the blood clotting factors necessary to stop bleeding.
- Since the liver makes nearly all the clotting factors in your blood, except for platelets and von Willebrand’s factor, you may not be able to form a blood clot if you have certain types of liver disease.
- You may have low blood platelets. This could be due to:
- Underproduction of blood platelets – from chemotherapy, cancer in the bone marrow (such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma), viruses, drugs, or certain vitamin deficiencies.
- Increased destruction – There may be a problem with your spleen or your immune system, and your body is attacking and destroying the blood platelet cells.
- Certain drugs may cause low blood platelets as a side effect, such as Heparin Sodium (a blood thinner, used to treat blood clots in your legs, lungs, or anywhere in your body). Laboratory examinations may be performed to learn more about your bleeding problems, such as nosebleeds or blood disorder bruising.
In Malaysia, many people take papaya leave juice to increase platelet count when they get dengue fever. It’s a fact that, to date, there’s no known medical cure for dengue fever since it’s caused by a virus transmitted through the bite of the Aedes mosquito. However, it seems drinking papaya leaf extract helps to bring up the platelet count. One friend recounted that some months back, she too was hospitalized for dengue fever and one of her friends fed her the juice from raw papaya leaves and her platelet count went up from 8,000 to 120,000 (the normal platelet count is 150,000) after taking the juice for 2 days.
The recipe is quite simple really. Two pieces fresh papaya leaves (use only the leafy part, remove the stalks), wash clean, pound and squeeze out the juice. That should yield approximately 2 tablespoons of bitter juice to be taken as it is. Do not boil or dilute with water. One serving per day is recommended.
There is also a mention of the pennywort leaves (locally known as “daun pegaga” or “valarai” in Tamil) having the same effect.