Don’t Lose Hope When Losing Platelets

Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura Awareness Month is recognized this September

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Platelets are the blood cells in charge of stopping the bleeding when people are cut. People cannot live without any platelets, yet some people live with only very few platelets in their blood.

Patients with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) have a much lower number of platelets than healthy people. For ITP patients, performing some ordinary activities could be too dangerous because of the risks for bleeding.

September is ITP Awareness Month. The awareness month was created to reflect on how people's lives are affected and suddenly changed by ITP, and to recognize the challenges that ITP patients face every day while living with the disease.

The awareness month also aims to inform the public about available resources and support for patients with ITP. Patients should know that they are not alone in the fight against ITP. Raising public awareness and understanding of the disease can bring new treatments and opportunities to ITP patients.

"During September, wear purple in support of patients with platelet disorders."

Three years ago, the Platelet Disorder Support Association (PDSA) designated September as the awareness month for immune or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). Purple is the color used to help raise awareness and September 27 is Platelets Day.

ITP is a condition in which the body's immune system starts attacking and destroying platelets. People with ITP will have low platelet counts (below 20,000 platelets per microliter) compared to healthy individuals (higher than 150,000 platelets per microliter).

Since only a small number of the population is affected by ITP, it is classified as a rare disease. Raising awareness is particularly important for rare diseases such as ITP because most people have never heard about these conditions.

ITP can affect adults and children. About five per 100,000 children and two per 100,000 adults are diagnosed with ITP each year. However, it is common for children to recover spontaneously (around 3 months), while ITP generally remains chronic in teenagers and adults. It is estimated that three out of 100,000 children and three out of 100,000 adults live with ITP.

Patients with ITP bruise and bleed easily. Yet, with proper treatment and measures of caution, ITP patients can have good outcomes and avoid hospitalization. Treatment focuses on decreasing the risk for bleeding complications and increasing platelet count.

Physicians have noticed that ITP may develop after an infection, but the exact causes are not known.

While there is no definitive way to prevent ITP, the PDSA still suggests maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle. On its website, PDSA lists the following recommendations:

  • Watch your diet — eat whole, fresh and organic food when possible; limit sugar, dairy and meat intake; choose healthy fats; avoid alcohol and allergenic foods; chew your food well; and drink warm water.
  • Maintain a healthy digestive system by eating lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Maintain normal levels of folic acid and vitamin D to prevent infections.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Avoid environmental toxins such as insecticides, pesticides, mold, solvents, etc.

It’s also important for adults to be aware of the appearance of any of the following ITP signs in themselves or their children, and to consult a doctor if they occur:

  • Multiple tiny red dots on the skin (petechiae).
  • Bruises with no known cause.
  • Unusual bleeding — heavy menses in women, nosebleeds, bleeding inside the mouth or blood in urine or stool.

Living with ITP can be frustrating because patients may feel depressed and tired most of the time. However, the severity of the disease varies among people with ITP. Patients need to learn what makes them feel better and what makes them feel worse.

Some patients have reported that changing their diet and doing yoga has helped. In addition to finding a good doctor, ITP patients can join support groups, participate in blogs and attend conferences. Doing so may help them to learn more and to meet people dealing with the same condition.

ITP patients need to explain to their family/friends about their condition because chances are they have never heard about it. Lastly, they should wear a medical alert ID in case of an emergency.

There is a clear necessity for more research on ITP. The most important questions about ITP haven’t been answered yet. For example, physicians don’t know how ITP originates in a person, nor how and why sometimes it goes away spontaneously. ITP Awareness Month can focus the attention of researchers, medical providers and funding organizations on patients with ITP.

There are many ways to get involved with this awareness month. PDSA gives some suggestions and provides some help on getting started:

  • Wear something purple and explain why you are wearing it.
  • Inform and distribute free materials provided by PDSA on its website.
  • Attend a local support group meeting.
  • Walk or run in a local ITP walk, or participate in the virtual run.
  • Share your personal experience living with ITP.
  • Coordinate a display at a health fair, store or hospital.
  • Share information about ITP Awareness Month on Facebook and Twitter.
  • Display the ITP awareness ribbon on your profile.
  • Become a member of PDSA.
  • Make a donation.

Through education, advocacy, research and support, anyone can join the effort to improve the lives of ITP patients. Your participation this month in raising awareness for ITP is priceless.

Review Date: 
September 12, 2013
Last Updated:
September 13, 2013