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Thrombocytopenia and ITP

Questions for Your Doctor

  • What's causing the problem?
  • What are my treatment options? Which do you recommend?
  • Do these treatments have side effects? What can I do about them?
  • How will we know if the treatment is working?
  • When will I start to feel better?
  • What do you expect for my case?
  • Does this condition put me at risk for anything else?
  • Do I need to see a specialist?

Treatment

There are a lot of treatment options for thrombocytopenia and ITP. You'll need to work with your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits of each and find a therapy that's right for you.

If you have ITP, your treatment depends on how severe a case you have. If it's mild, you may only need to get regular checks of your platelet levels.

A "mild" case means you have no significant bleeding and your platelet count is at least 50,000 to 100,000.

When you do need treatment, the goal is to get your platelet count to a level that's high enough to prevent significant amounts of bleeding.

Your doctor will likely suggest these treatments first:

Corticosteroids. They are also known as glucocorticoids. Prednisone is the most common one used to treat ITP. Doctors prescribe it to try to raise your platelet count. You typically take it once a day in the form of a pill or tablet.

Usually you take prednisone until your platelet level improves, typically within 1 or 2 weeks. Your doctor will then likely gradually reduce your dose over the next 4 to 8 weeks.

There are some side effects to prednisone, especially if you use it for a long time. Even after a short time, you can get irritable, have stomach upsets, and have other problems such as:

  • Disturbed sleep
  • Weight gain
  • Puffy cheeks
  • Need to urinate frequently
  • Decreased bone density
  • Acne

Besides side effects, another disadvantage to prednisone is that your platelet count may drop once you've finished your course of treatment.

IVIG (intravenous immune globulin). If you can't get your platelet count down with prednisone, or if it drops after you're done with your treatment, your doctor may suggest IVIG. You take this medication through an IV, usually for several hours a day over a period of 1 to 5 days.

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