Thrombocytopenic purpura is a condition that affects blood coagulation and the plasma of the body. The condition is considered rare, affecting around 4 million people annually. Thrombocytopenic purpura is characterized by the formation of small blood clots in the circulatory system, which reduces the amount of platelets present in the blood. It is believed that a deficiency of a certain enzyme in the body is responsible for the development of the condition and a plasma protein affects the development of the condition as well. This causes the platelets in the blood to clump together causing blood clots within the circulatory system. The blood vessels supplying the brain and kidneys are where a large number of these tiny clots occur. During this process, the coagulated formations destroy a large number of red blood cells, causing more adverse complications to occur.
There are three different types of thrombocytopenic purpura currently known; idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, secondary thrombocytopenic purpura, and Upshaw-Schulman syndrome. Upshaw-Schulman syndrome is a hereditary form of thrombocytopenic purpura. Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is diagnosed when the reason for the development of thrombocytopenic purpura is unknown and secondary thrombocytopenic purpura is diagnosed when it is known that one of the risk factors for the condition has contributed to the development of the condition. Some of the known risk factors for the development of the condition include previous exposure to chemotherapy or radiation therapy, bone marrow transplantation, use of certain medications, and exposure to high levels of certain chemicals, such as benzene.
Thrombocytopenic purpura can affect individuals of any age, race, or sex. The condition is most common in individuals between 20 and 40 years of age and affects women at a greater rate than men. Individuals of African-American heritage have a higher risk of developing thrombocytopenic purpura than any other race. The survival rate of the condition has increased from 80% mortality to 80% survival with the use of current treatments. Most individuals will only have a single episode of thrombocytopenic purpura, but one-third of individuals will experience a relapse within a ten year period.
There are a number of symptoms that may signal the development of thrombocytopenic purpura. Individuals that have developed thrombocytopenic purpura often experience neurological symptoms that fluctuate between non-existent and severe. Common symptoms that indicate an affected neurological system include frequent headaches, altered mental status, bizarre behavior, and stroke. Thrombocytopenic purpura also causes kidney failure in nearly half of the individuals affected by the condition. Low platelet counts within the blood will result in easy bruising and the destruction of red blood cells within the circulatory system may cause anemia. Other common symptoms of thrombocytopenic purpura include fever, nausea, vomiting, muscle or joint pain, chest pain, and seizures.
One common treatment for thrombocytopenic purpura is the transfusion of plasma in a procedure called plasmapheresis. In this procedure, only the plasma obtained from a donor is used for the transfusion and the plasmas are exchanged within the body by use of a special machine. This procedure needs to be used on a regular basis to alleviate the symptoms of thrombocytopenic purpura and improve the health of the patient. Many patients will also need medications to suppress the immune system during treatment.
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