If you’ve never heard of a condition called immune thrombocytopenia, consider yourself lucky. Not just because it’s a challenging disease for residents of Van Nuys and elsewhere to live with, but because it’s so hard to pronounce. That’s why many medical professionals and home care providers just call it ITP, which is much easier to discuss, pronounce and spell.
ITP is one of the conditions that the team at Accredited Home Care is familiar with. We make sure that all of our staff, including any Licensed Vocational Nurses on staff, knows all about it before they head into the homes of clients who may have this condition. While it’s not terminal or immediately life-threatening, some caution is required and some extra safety steps are recommended.
According to the Platelet Disorder Support Association, which also made a similar observation about the difficult-to-pronounce name, ITP is a rare autoimmune condition where the body’s immune system destroys platelets, which are small cells that come together to plug and repair damaged blood vessels.
If your platelets aren’t working at an optimal level or you have less than your body needs, you’re more likely to experience bruising or find it difficult to stop bleeding, even from a small cut or wound. People with this type of condition will also feel more fatigued since their immune system is constantly fighting this battle and they may have lower platelet counts. It can also make your immune system weaker and make you more susceptible to other health conditions.
They also may have higher levels of concern and anxiety, especially when they consider going outside or into situations where they could potentially hurt themselves.
So an employee of our organization, such as an LVN, needs to be aware of the physical condition, including what methods their provider may be using to try to treat it. They also should consider any of the emotional or psychological challenges facing clients as a result.
Or in some cases, one of our employees may suspect ITP based on their observations and the client’s symptoms, so they are encouraged to share their observations with the client’s health provider for an official diagnosis and to begin a course of treatment.
Though research is still continuing, people are more at risk to having for ITP after exposure to certain toxins, certain immunizations, after pregnancy, viral or bacterial infections, or with other autoimmune illnesses, such as HIV or lupus.
Possible physical signs can include easy and frequent bruising; patterns of red dots on the skin that may be caused by broken blood vessels; blood in urine or feces, noses or gums; or high fatigue.
Women are more likely to be diagnosed than men, and children are also more susceptible than adults.
A client and their provider likely will try different methods to treat or fight ITP, even though a firm universal treatment method hasn’t been found yet.
According to the Mayo Clinic, providers often begin their examination by looking at a client’s blood and their platelet levels.
He or she will try to look for possible causes of why levels could be lower than they’re supposed to, such as other health conditions or medications. Blood smears can indicate platelet levels and blood marrow tests can also show how the number of platelets typically produced.
Once it is diagnosed, a provider may offer a treatment plan of medication, including steroids or globulin, which can both boost platelet levels.
Often, it is expected to go away in a few weeks after a course of treatment. In rare cases, someone may need their spleen removed or adults may need a blood marrow transplant.
The provider will likely want to check platelet levels regularly to see if the treatment methods are having any effect. According to the PDSA, ITP is often categorized into different phases, starting with “new” for someone who has been diagnosed for three months or less; persistent, where it hasn’t gone into remission without therapy; chronic, if it lasts more than a year; severe, which may need more or more invasive treatment options; or refractory, which is where the ITP doesn’t seem to be responding well to treatment.
A doctor may also ask a client to stop taking medication that can affect platelet levels, including ibuprofen or aspirin to see if this may have an effect. Providers also warn about the increased possibility of dangerous blood clots for prolonged steroid use or certain medications that can promote more platelets or improved clotting. Some suggested medications may address the immediate blood problems and platelet levels, but could still reduce overall immunity to other conditions.
If you’re an LVN, working at a home health care agency can be an opportunity to interact with clients with a wide variety of health conditions. Or, in some cases, new conditions may develop as other health conditions change.
Learning about conditions like ITP, including options to treat it and the symptoms that may be detected, can go a long way in improving a client’s quality of life.