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Immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP): Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP)

Immune thrombocytopenia purpura, also known as idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura is a bleeding disorder. It is characterised by increased destruction of platelets which are specific type of blood cells responsible for clotting of blood. As the name suggests, the immune system of one’s body turns against oneself and destroys the body’s platelets.

Immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP): Incidence, age and sex

Immune thrombocytopenia purpura is a common blood disorder encountered in the general population. It may afflict an individual of any age group including children and adults. Women are as commonly afflicted as compared with men.

Signs and symptoms of immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP): Diagnosis

The most prominent and first clinical sign of immune thrombocytopenia purpura is the appearance of pin point red spots on the skin. Such skin lesions are appear as a result of bleeding from small blood vessels under the skin. Minor trauma can cause extensive bruising due to failure of blood to clot. Nose bleed and bleeding from the upper gastrointestinal tract is also manifested. Affected women may complain of heavy bleeding during menstrual periods.

Physical examination of the affected individual, may reveal multiple bruises, pin-point red spots and enlargement of spleen. Spleen is a small abdominal organ wherein the platelets are destroyed. Blood tests including platelet count and clotting tests may help in establishing the diagnosis. Normal platelet count ranges between 1.4 lakhs/ml to 4.4 lakhs/ml.

Causes and prevention of immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP)

The exact cause of this disorder is not known. It is considered to be autoimmune wherein the body’s own immune system produces antibodies against the platelets leading to their increased destruction. In many cases, especially in children, it may follow a viral infection.

Immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP): Complications

Occasionally, immune thrombocytopenia purpura may result in extensive blood loss from gastrointestinal tract or a minor injury. This may be fatal as it may progress to hypovolemic shock which is a medical emergency. Very rarely, it has been documented to cause bleeding in the cerebral blood vessels resulting in brain haemorrhage, which is a potentially fatal condition.

Immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP): Treatment

Immune thrombocytopenia purpura in children, generally resolves on its own and does not require any treatment in most cases. Adults with immune thrombocytopenia purpura usually need treatment which is mainly in the form of medications. The most effective medication is oral steroids. Other alternative medications include cyclophophamide and injectible gamma globulins. Surgical intervention may be needed in certain cases who do not respond well to the medications. Surgery involves removal of the spleen (splenectomy) which helps in markedly reducing the destruction of platelets. It is recommended to avoid certain medications like aspirin and warfarin which may cause high chances of bleeding. Unfortunately, affected individuals may exhibit frequent relapses of bleeding episodes. However the interval periods are symptoms-free. It is a life-long disease requiring long-term treatment.