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Causes & Risk Factors – Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Thrombocytopenic purpura affects around 4 million individuals each year. The condition is caused by a defect in the plasma of the body that causes the platelets present in the blood stream to clot spontaneously, adding hundreds of tiny blood clots to the circulatory system. This spontaneous coagulation of the blood is believed to be caused by a deficiency of a particular enzyme along with a defect in the protein of the plasma. When these two factors are combined, the platelets in the blood began to attach to each other, causing a fine mesh clot in the blood stream that also destroys any red blood cells that it comes into contact with. This production of small blood clots occurs primarily in the blood vessels that supply the brain and the kidneys. The deficiency of platelets in the body that occurs due to the condition is believed to be a result of the body’s immune system attacking the platelets as invasive agents. Thrombocytopenic purpura is a progressive condition that gradually becomes worse as time goes on.

An individual may be diagnosed with one of three different types of thrombocytopenic purpura. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura occurs when the reason for the development of the condition is unknown. In the absence of exposure to any known risk factors, thrombocytopenic purpura is classified as idiopathic, which does not change the common treatment methods for the condition. The second classification used is secondary thrombocytopenic purpura. Secondary thrombocytopenic purpura is diagnosed when the possible cause of the condition is known. There are several risk factors that may contribute to the development of thrombocytopenic purpura, but knowing which risk factors the individual has been exposed to does not change which treatment methods will be used. The third type of thrombocytopenic purpura is the hereditary version of the condition, known as Upshaw-Schulman syndrome.

There are many risk factors that are believed to increase an individual’s chance of developing thrombocytopenic purpura. Any person of any age, race, or sex may develop thrombocytopenic purpura, but the condition is most common in individuals between the ages of 20 years old and 40 years old. The condition affects women at a higher rate than men, averaging about twice as often. Pregnancy may also be a factor in the development of the disorder, with the highest risk occurring during the second trimester. Thrombocytopenic purpura does not affect the unborn child but can make the mother very ill. Certain illnesses may also trigger the development of the condition.

Previous exposure to chemotherapy or radiation therapy has been associated with the development of thrombocytopenic purpura. Long term exposure to certain carcinogenic chemicals, such as benzene, has also been linked to the development of thrombocytopenic purpura. It is believed that exposure to cancer, cancer treatments, and carcinogenic agents increase an individual’s risk of developing thrombocytopenic purpura because the conditions are closely linked. There are several medications that have been linked to the development of thrombocytopenic purpura, but only a small percentage of the individuals that take these medications develop the condition. The mortality rate for untreated cases of thrombocytopenic purpura is around 95%, but with proper medical treatment and early intervention, between 80% and 90% of the cases can be effectively managed or resolved.

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