ITP or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a condition in which the immune system produces antibodies that destroy the platelets instead of recognizing them as useful components of the body. Platelets play a significant role in blood clotting to prevent bleeding during an injury. They gather in the affected area to plug the holes and allow them to heal. People can suffer from the symptoms of low platelet count when they have ITP. They don’t have enough of these elements to perform this vital function.
It often starts due to a viral infection or chronic disease. The adults may experience this issue in long-term. The problem doesn’t come from the bone marrow wherein the platelets are manufactured. It produces a sufficient amount of these elements. However, they are instantly destroyed by the antibodies when they reach the bloodstream.
On the other hand, children who are affected by this disorder can recover without receiving treatment. This problem can occur after they suffer from viral illness such as measles, respiratory infection, mumps, chicken pox, and many other certain diseases. In some cases, the immune system has disorder preventing it from fighting the antigens that attack the body. This problem can lead to easy bruising and bleeding, which is a fatal stage of this condition.
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The early stage of ITP often has no signs that it already affects the body. However, if symptoms occur, they can be any of the following:
- Purpura – purple spots which look like a rash that develops on the skin due to the internal bleeding happening in the blood vessels
- Petechiae – reddish points or purple spots that grow on the skin and are mostly located on the legs
- Heavy menstrual period
- Bloody urine and stool
- Gum bleeding
- Nose bleeding
What causes ITP
People suffering from ITP can have an immune system that destructs the platelets. Since some of the platelets are stored in the spleen, some of them should circulate together with the blood. This part is also responsible for eliminating the toxins that enter the system. However, in this case, the spleen removes the platelets mistakenly. It can then reduce the numbers of platelets that are supposed to help the body.
Moreover, people with ITP only have a platelet count below 20,000. The normal range should be 150,000 to 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood. Since it was not able to reach this threshold, the body’s ability to clot during necessary times is also reduced. As this number gets lower, the higher is your risk to develop bleeding. The lowest range that you can get is below 10,000 platelets which can lead to a life-threatening situation.
Although women are found to have higher platelets level than men, they are more likely to develop ITP than the latter. It can even affect them even during the pregnancy. The fetus may not be affected by this condition. However, it is still essential to check his platelet count after birth. The mother is also at high risk of bleeding during this delivery.
The ITP that is considered to appear on its own is referred to as primary. But if some conditions cause its existence like cancer, pregnancy, or chronic infections, it is known as secondary. Take note that there is no risk to pass this disease to another person.
ITP can be classified in three ways based on its condition:
- Acute ITP – this condition mostly affects children between ages two to six but only lasts for less than three months. It usually exists after a viral infection and can get cured without receiving any treatment. In some cases, the platelets of adults can continuously drop leading them to suffer from persistent or chronic ITP. It is the stage in which purple skin rash or blood blisters on the mouth may exist.
- Persistent ITP – just like the acute ITP, this condition can also get treated without doing any procedure. However, it can last from three months to one year. It is the stage wherein bruises appear. Affected people will also notice that their wound heals slowly and may sometimes ooze blood as well. It is not the best time to undergo dental surgery because they are also prone to bleeding. For women, they may experience heavy menstrual bleeding.
- Chronic ITP – this condition lasts for more than one year. It mostly affects adults between the ages of 20 to 40. Unlike the other two classifications, the person with chronic ITP needs to undergo treatment, or his platelets can totally drop and lead to a fatal situation. This stage is most risky of all because bleeding can occur. It may happen spontaneously, but can also be intermittent.
The primary step that the doctor should do to determine your condition is to conduct a physical exam. He will also ask for your medical history to see if there is a previous infection that causes its existence. It is also crucial to perform a complete blood count to see if the other components of your blood are in normal level.
A series of blood tests are a way for the doctor to determine if the problem is caused by the other organs like kidney and liver. He will also investigate the symptoms that you are experiencing like checking if there are unusual spots on your skin. If some symptoms resemble a condition like thrombocytopenia, he will proceed to evaluate the structure and level of your platelets.
Another crucial diagnostic test is a blood smear, a process in which a drop of blood is put on a glass slide and placed under a microscope to check the appearance of the platelets. A bone marrow biopsy may also be necessary to evaluate if the problem is due to bone marrow disorder in which it fails to produce healthy platelets.
Since the underlying cause of ITP is not often known, it is also difficult to find an excellent solution to this problem. However, you will be required to avoid certain medications that can complicate the condition even more. Always ask your doctor if you want to take medicine to relieve another illness. You also need to observe and pay attention to the symptoms that you are experiencing and immediately report its occurrence to your physician.