Immune Thrombocytopenia or IT is defined as a rare type of auto-immune blood disorder that causes obliteration of the platelets and is usually characterized by easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. Earlier Immune Thrombocytopenia was known as Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, where the term “idiopathic” meant ‘unknown cause’ since the actual cause of the bleeding disorder was still unknown. But now after numerous scientific research, it is quite clear that excessive bleeding is due to low levels of platelet in the blood. Also Read: Autoimmune Disease: Learn What It Is About
Platelets, also known as thrombocytes, are produced in the bone marrow. These quintessential for the body as they usually help stop bleeding by coagulating together to form a clot that seals cuts or small tears in blood vessel walls and tissues causing healing of wounds. In the case of IT, the platelet levels in the blood drastically reduce aggravating bleeding and bruising.
Immune Thrombocytopenia can be classified into 2 types: acute (short term) and chronic (long term).
Acute IT: One of the most common forms of the disorder in children usually lasting less than 6 months.
Chronic IT: This type usually lasts for six months or longer and is commonly seen in adults, teenagers, and younger children.
IT usually happens when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy platelets required for wound healing by producing antibodies against it and destroys them causing low levels of platelets in the blood.
The causative factors leading up to IT include:
Sex: Women are more at risk than men
Infection: IT can get triggered due to recent infections from HIV, hepatitis, viral infections, mumps, or flu. Also Read: World AIDS Day 2019: All You Need To Know About HIV
Diseased Condition: The risk of IT increases if people are already suffering from lupus and antiphospholipid syndrome or rheumatoid arthritis.
Although in certain cases, this auto-immune disorder may get unnoticed, the usual signs and symptoms include:
- Excessive bruising (purpura)
- Pinpoint-sized reddish-purple spots (i.e. petechiae) often on the lower legs
- Impulsive nosebleeds
- Bleeding from the gums (for example, during dental work)
- Blood in the urine or stool
- Abnormally bleeding during menstruation
- Continued bleeding from cuts
- Profuse bleeding during surgery
If the condition is left untreated for a long time, it can even lead to bleeding in the brain which is life-threatening. If a pregnant woman is suffering from this condition, it can cause heavy bleeding during the time of delivery.
Diagnosis And Treatment
In case you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, consult a doctor at the earliest to know the exact cause. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up, does a range of diagnostics to rule out other possible causes of lower platelet count, and acknowledges the patient's past medical history. Diagnostics include:
- Complete blood count
- Smear sampling of blood
- Biopsy of bone marrow
People having a mild form of IT need not require medications apart from regular monitoring and platelet check-ups. Although children usually improve without any specific treatment, adults usually suffering from a chronic form need medications like steroids, or immune-globulin shots, to improve platelet count or surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy).