What is Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura?
Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura is a rare pathological condition in which the antibodies produced by the immune system of the body mistakenly identify platelets as a threat to the body and attach themselves to it and thus destroying it causing the individual to have less and less platelets in the blood. Platelets are extremely vital for the body as it promotes clotting of the blood. If an individual does not have sufficient platelets in the body then even a simple cut may cause significant profuse bleeding.
Individuals with Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura also have a tendency to bruise easily as a result of the low platelet count. Some cases of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura are caused by medications whereas some cases of this condition are caused by infection. Pregnancy and conditions like systemic lupus erythematosus have also been shown to cause Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura. In some cases there is no known cause identified for Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura to occur and hence this condition is also known by the name of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura.
What Causes Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura?
Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura as stated is caused by the antibodies produced by the immune system of the body as a line of defence against any bacterial or viral infection mistakenly identifies healthy cells as a threat to the body and starts destroying therm, in this case the platelets. The spleen which is responsible for fighting off infections identifies these antibodies and eliminates the platelets to which these antibodies are attached to. This results in the individual ending up with less and less platelets. In children, this immune malfunction can be caused due to a recent bacterial or viral infection. In some cases there is no cause found as to the immune malfunction and hence such conditions are called idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura.
What are the Symptoms of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura?
The classic presenting feature of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura is the tendency of the individual to easily bruise and even a simple small cut bleeding profusely indicating that there is a problem with clotting of the blood. In some cases, Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura can cause bleeding from the nose, mouth and gums. In very rare cases, bleeding in the brain may occur.
How is Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura, a detailed history and a physical examination will be done by the physician. There will be a careful review of whether the patient, especially children, has had any recent infections. A detail history of what medications the patient has been taking will be taken. This will be followed by laboratory investigations in which platelet count will be checked which will obviously be low in cases of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura.
The next step in confirming the diagnosis is to examine the bone marrow to see whether the bone marrow is able to produce enough platelets and also rule out other conditions like cancer. Once all these conditions have been ruled out, then a diagnosis can be confirmatively made of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura.
How is Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura Treated?
The treatment for Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura depends on what is causing the condition. If it is found out that a medication is a cause for the individual having this condition then it is obvious that the offending medication will be stopped. If the condition is caused as a result of infection then aggressive treatment for that infection is done so as to ease the symptoms of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura and return the platelet counts back to normal. The treatment of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura is also determined by how severe the disease condition is. In mild forms of this condition, no specific therapy is recommended but in majority of the cases medications which suppress the immune system known as immune modulators are given to treat Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura. These medications are prednisone or IVIG. Splenectomy is a procedure that can be done to increase the number of platelets but this procedure comes with its inherent risks. There are other medications as well which have been successfully used for treatment of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura and these include vincristine, Imuran, cyclophosphamide, and cyclosporine but these are only used in severe cases of this condition. Apart from this, certain lifestyle modifications while undergoing treatments can also help a lot with treatment of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura like avoiding contact sports where there might be a risk of injury, wearing protective gear while working at heights and operating machinery. These simple things along with the treatments mentioned until the platelets are back to normal levels are good enough to cope with Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura.
What is the Prognosis of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura?
With appropriate treatment, the prognosis of an Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura individual to have a symptom free period is quite good but in rare cases despite appropriate treatment the symptoms reappear even after a period of remission of Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura.