Purpura is generally a condition characterized by the occurrence of purple spots and blemishes that appear on the skin, organs and mucous membranes. There are two common variations of purpura: idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, and Henoch-Schonlein purpura, or HSP. ITP, also known as immune thrombocytopenic purpura, causes blood clots that affect the body’s platelet count. HSP is a form of vasculitis, which is a group of disorders that causes inflammation of blood vessels, resulting in bleeding of the skin, joints, intestines and kidneys. This bleeding also affects the platelet count. Treatments vary according to the type of purpura a patient is suffering from.
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Monitoring Platelet Levels
Some patients do not require treatment for either form of purpura. Treatment is needed when a patient’s platelet count goes below a healthy level. MedlinePlus indicates that a healthy platelet count is between 140,000 and 150,000 units per microliter. The Mayo Clinic states that patients with blood counts as low as less than 30,000 units per microliter of blood may not require treatment depending on the status of their overall health. If a patient’s platelet count remains in this range and the patient is generally healthy, the only treatment necessary is to visit his physician regularly to have his platelets monitored. The Mayo Clinic also indicates that it is generally recommended to avoid taking aspirin; ibuprofen, such as Advil and Motrin; and warfarin, or Coumadin. These medications have a tendency to thin the blood, causing a patient to bleed more than necessary.
Taking Medications and Vitamins
Prednisone is a commonly prescribed corticosteroid used to lower the activities of the immune system and increase platelet counts. Corticosteroids can be used to treat ITP and HSP. The average course of treatment lasts four to six weeks. Once platelet levels stabilize, a patient’s physician may choose to discontinue administration of this medication in order to prevent the onset of severe side effects. Side effects generally include cataracts, high blood sugar, increased risk of infections and loss of calcium. To treat a calcium deficiency, a patient’s physician may recommend doses of calcium and vitamin D to help maintain bone density while the patient is taking the prednisone.
In severe or emergency cases of ITP or HSP, intravenous immune globulin, or IVIG, is used to raise platelet levels. Because it is administered intravenously, treatment occurs very quickly and is highly effective. However, results may only last two weeks.
There are steps patients can take at home to support good overall health. Fatigue is a common symptom of ITP and HSP given the fluctuation of blood levels. For this reason, it is important to get adequate rest. Drinking plenty of water helps to prevent dehydration, which can exacerbate symptoms of ITP or HSP.