Idiopathic Thrombocytic Purpura. Say what? Forget that it’s difficult to pronounce; what the heck does it mean? You’ve heard of red cells and white cells in the blood. There is another kind of cell; that cell is the platelet.
Technically speaking, platelets aren’t cells because they lack DNA. (To be considered ‘real’ cells, ‘cells’ need a nucleus with DNA). Platelets lack DNA, so technically they are not cells). But they, platelets (thrombocytes) cause the blood to clot.
People who have lupus can have low numbers of platelets for several reasons. In lupus and in all autoimmune diseases, cells of the immune system attack other cells. When platelets are attacked and killed, their numbers are decreased resulting in thrombocytopenia (low platelets in the blood); blood may or may not clot. That is one of the many reasons they check your platelet count before surgery. Can you see the headlines now? ‘The operation was a success, but the patient bled to death!’ It has happened.
Another reason that people with lupus might have low platelets is APS or antiphospholipid syndrome; another clotting disorder, often caused by lupus which increases the likelihood of blood-clotting. How could this be so? An increased likelihood of clotting at the same time there is a decreased likelihood? Platelets are so busy causing blood to clot in in all parts of the body, that in some areas, there are not adequate numbers of them to cause blood to clot. So much for the thrombocyte (thrombocytic) part. So much for the thrombocytic part and on to the idiopathic part!
‘Idiopathic’ simply means docs don’t know what causes something to happen.
Purpura is a simple reference to what can happen when blood fails to clot. Blood may pool close to the skin surface, eventually clot and there is a resulting purplish discoloration; purpura or in it’s very technical term: bruising!
There you have it, ITP or Idiopathic Thrombocytic Purpura, sometimes not hazardous, but it can be serious and depending upon the severity, ITP may or may not be treated,. If it is treated, Plaquenil,™ steroids, Benlysta,™ CellCept™ or mycophenolate are among many meds of choice Other treatments can be Rituxan™ or in more severe cases, the surgical removal of the spleen (splenectomy). New treatments are in clinical trials, now.
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