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Caring For a Loved One Diagnosed With Idiopathic Thrombocytopenia Purpura

September is National ITP Awareness Month, a time to bring light to a condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenia purpura. This is a blood disorder involving a decrease in the number of platelets in the blood. Are you caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with ITP in hospice in San Francisco and elsewhere? You are not alone. Let’s take this time to talk more about this disorder, what it is and how you can best provide care for your loved one.

What is ITP?

Easy or excessive bruising and bleeding characterize this blood disorder, resulting from unusually low levels of platelets. These are important cells because they are the ones responsible for helping blood to clot. It may cause purple bruises and tiny reddish-purple dots that resemble a rash, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can affect anyone at any age, but children typically develop ITP after a viral infection and recover with no treatment. In adults, it’s a long-term disorder that usually requires treatment.

Patients that have no signs of bleeding, with platelet counts that aren’t too low, may not need treatment. But for patients with more severe symptoms,  treatment is necessary, either with medication to increase platelet count or through surgery to remove the spleen.

Oftentimes, no symptoms are present. But when they are, those symptoms include:

  • Easy or excessive bruising
  • Superficial bleeding that looks like pinpoint-sized, reddish-purple spots (also known as petechiae) on the lower legs
  • Bleeding from the nose or gums
  • Blood in stool or urine
  • Unusually heavy menstrual flows
  • Many things can trigger the immune system to weaken and stop producing platelets, from exposure to toxins to hepatitis, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Managing ITP Symptoms

While there is no cure for ITP, there are ways you can manage it through a healthy lifestyle and medication.

The first thing you can do is to encourage healthy eating. Create a diet rich in:

  • Vegetables, including dark green, red, and orange veggies; legumes (peas and beans); and starchy vegetables
  • Whole fruits and grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy products
  • Proteins, including seafood, lean meats, legumes, and poultry
  • Healthy oils

Try to limit the following:

  • Saturated and trans fats
  • Added sugars
  • Sodium

Stay away from medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen, as well as supplements like fish oil, which can all alter how platelets function.

Exercise is another way to help with symptoms. Your loved one may be limited in what they can do when under home care or hospice care, and you should always consult with their doctor, but these are some tips to try:

  • Aquatic exercises
  • Mild dancing
  • Gardening
  • Fishing
  • Tai chi
  • Stationary bike training
  • Swimming
  • Walking

If you are the one suffering from ITP as a caregiver and want to see what you can do to help yourself, check out these tips.

  1. Know your body: A big part of self-care is knowing what to look for. Monitor your body regularly for bruises, especially ones where you don’t know what caused them, says Everyday Health. If you experience a heavier-than-usual menstrual period, be aware that your platelet count could be dropping, so be sure to check in with your doctor.
  2. Move with caution: There are intense activities you should avoid with ITP, such as rock climbing or mountain biking. But other than that, just try to exercise caution when engaging in fitness activities. Even just in daily life, take your time and move slowly, such as when cooking with a knife in your hands.
  3. Be prepared: Bleeding episodes can and will happen, but the key is to be prepared for them when they do. Keep plenty of bandages and gauze pads on hand, and always apply gentle pressure when covering cuts. If you have a more severe case, you will need to have the proper topical or oral medications on hand.
  4. Practice stress management: You can do this through yoga, guided imagery, meditation, and other mind-body practices. These can promote coordination while avoiding injury. In addition, your injury risk is reduced when you continually practice ways to reduce stress. Stress reduction also boosts your immune system, which is very important because when your immune system is inflamed and unregulated, ITP becomes more active.

Helpful Resources

There are many resources to help you understand ITP and how you can provide the best care for your loved one in hospice. You may want to visit:

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Our caregiving staff has experience caring for hospice patients suffering from ITP and other blood disorders. To find out how we can assist you in your caregiving endeavors, contact us at 888-978-1306.