Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: Its Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

November 12, 2012

Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: Its Cause, Symptoms and Treatment

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic is the condition of where the blood is not clotting like it should because the number of platelets the body has is greatly reduced.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is when the blood is not clotting like it should because it’s got a reduced number of platelets, which is also known as thrombocytes. Platelets work together to seal open cuts or breaks and halt bleeding.

  • Idiopathic – unknown cause of condition

  • Thrombocytopenic – reduced number of platelets in blood

  • Purpura – purple bruises that’s the result of under the skin bleeding

What Happens With Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, What Causes It

People with idiopathic thrombocytopenic regularly have purple bruises on their skin or on mucous membranes, which means bleeding has taken place in the small blood vessels. It may appear as a rash or bruises and may be purple, red or brown in color. It’s common for them to have nosebleeds, gums that bleed or other hard-to-stop bleeding. Women with this condition have heavier than normal periods. ITP rarely causes bleeding within the brain. However, when it does, this can become life-threatening. A hematoma may also form under the skin and resemble the feel and look of a lump.

It’s thought that ITP is the result of an autoimmune response, which means the immune system is attacking the body’s own platelets. Doctors still don’t know why this happens; however, it is not a communicable disease.

Two Kinds Of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

There are actually two kinds of ITP:

  • Acute – This tends to last no more than six months, occurs in children of both genders, is usually more common and typically caused by a viral infection of some type.

  • Chronic – This tends to last more than six months and affects more adults than children. It also affects more women than men.

Treatment will depend on the severity of the bleeding symptoms and platelet count. When it’s a mild case, treatment is not always needed. Keep in mind that both children and adults are at risk for this condition.

Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura Symptoms and Signs

Low platelets don’t cause any of your symptoms but any bleeding you have could have the following symptoms or signs:

  1. Red spots, known petechiae, are on the skin, usually in groups looking like a rash

  2. Purpura – bruising on the skin or mucous membranes because of bleeding, usually occurring for no reason. More serious bleeding will result in hematomas, a collection of partially or fully clotted blood under the skin, feeling is similar to a lump

  3. Bleeding from gums and nose

  4. Blood in urine and stool

A possible sign of ITP is bleeding of any kind including heavy menstrual periods in women. Bear in mind that a low amount of platelets will not cause the following things:

  • Tiredness

  • Pain

  • Concentration problems

  • Any other symptoms

How Doctors Diagnose Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, medical history and look over test results. And, your doctor will ensure that the low platelet count isn’t from another condition or a side effect of medication. He/she will use this information to come up with a treatment plan.

How Doctors Treat Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

The treatment for this condition is based on how often and how much you’re bleeding as well as your platelet count. There are some instances where treatment is not necessary.

1 – Medicine

Medicine, used for both adults and children, is generally the first treatment course doctors try. Doctors will use corticosteroids to treat idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. These kinds of medications will boost the platelet count and reduce the immune system activity. Steroids come with a number of side effects and can cause some folks to relapse.

2 – Splenectomy

Sometimes your spleen will need to be removed because the spleen, which produces antibodies, will destroy the platelets. If steroids are not handling the problem, spleen removal helps decrease the platelet destruction. You could also be prone to more specific infections. Before the surgery, your doctor is likely to give you vaccines to keep them from occurring.

3 – Platelet Transfusion

Some ITP folks who suffer with severe bleeding will need platelet transfusions and stay in the hospital. The transfusion may also be done before the surgery. Blood bank donor platelets will be injected to a recipient’s bloodstream, allowing the increase in the court for a minute amount of time.

4 – Treat Infections

Treating infections that have a tendency to reduce the platelet count can help boost the count and stop the bleeding problems.

5 – Quit Taking Medications

If an ITP person is using medication that lowers his/her platelet count or results in bleeding, quitting the medication can reverse the count and stop the bleeding.

The Prevention Of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

There’s no real way to prevent ITP but you can stop the complications that can occur with it:

  • Speak with your doctor about medications you are taking

  • Decrease the amount of injuries you have

  • Get treatment immediately for any infections

  • Make some lifestyle changes to manage the condition

If you believe you have idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, make sure you see your doctor regularly and take the necessary precautions to keep its complications from arising.


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