Idiopathic = they don't know what causes it
Thrombocytopenic = platelet count
Purpura = the petechiae or bloodspots that are a symptom of low platelets.
In most cases (and in my case) the antibodies attack the platelets in the blood and destroy them.
My consultant explained it to me this way:
Your antibodies are your bodies policemen. When the body is attacked by disease or infection the policemen lock on to the invaders and take them down.
Now some people have lazy policemen and so have a low immunity and frequently fall ill.
Other people (like me) have over zealous policemen. They're are a little too enthusiastic and for some unknown reason have given my platelets "enemy" status. And so they are working really hard to purge my body of these so called nasties.
It would be nice if there was some way the little antibody policemen could simply be "retrained" so that they would cease to attack the platelets, but at this stage as far as I'm aware this can't be done.
The problem is, of course, our platelets are very important. We need them for blood clotting without them we bleed a little too freely. This puts those of us with ITP at much higher risk of bleeding to death in a car accident, for example, or a brain aneurism from a blow to the head.
According to Wikipedia,
The mortality rate of chronic ITP patients varies but increases as a function of age. In a study conducted in Great Britain, it was noted that ITP patients experience an approximately 60 percent higher rate of mortality than gender- and age-matched comparison subjects without ITP. This increased risk of death with ITP is largely concentrated in middle-aged and elderly patients. Ninety-six percent of reported ITP-related deaths were patients 45 years or older. No significant difference was noted in the rate of survival between males and females.
It would be nice if there was some way the little antibody policemen could simply be "retrained" so that they would cease to attack our platelets, but at this stage, as far as I'm aware, this can't be done.
A healthy adult will have platelet levels of 150,000-450,000 per microlitre of blood. Anything below 150 might be considered thomboytopenic. Less than 10,000 (10) is considered critical and in my experience usually involves hospitalisation and therapy to bring up the level of platelets in the blood.
ITP can be brought on by illness or as reaction to something, such as antibiotics. Sometimes, as in my case there seems to be no rhyme or reason for the sudden on set of ITP.
Children who develop ITP often go into remission. This is less common in adults who are more likely to develop chronic ITP. More women seem to develop ITP than men.
To find out more follow these links.
US Department of Health