Autoimmune diseases occur when the body attacks normal, healthy parts of the body. One type of autoimmune disease is immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). A person is diagnosed with ITP if their platelet count is lower than 100,000/microliter of blood and has no other reasons for low counts. Normal platelet counts range from 150,000-400,000/microliter of blood. Platelets are responsible for blood clotting which is important when we get cuts or other circulatory system trauma. Low platelet levels cause bleeding conditions including spontaneous bruising, tiny red dots on skin, and, in women, strong menses. More severe conditions are blood blisters in mouth and bleeding in the brain. ITP is usually the general diagnosis with low platelets, but there are over 200 main diagnoses, called secondary ITP.
There is no specific cause of ITP, and it can vary among individuals, but there are several treatment options. Each treatment option works differently on each individual and they also depend of the severity of the condition. Some of these treatments include antibiotics, chemotherapy, corticosteroids, platelet growth factors, and transfusions.
Transfusions are a common treatment option, but they cannot happen without platelet donations! Platelets are needed every 30 seconds for patients, and platelets must be used within 5 days. That is why is is important to encourage platelet donations as often as possible. You can donate platelets 24 times as the process is very different than donating blood. Each platelet donation can allow transfusions for 2-3 patients! In order to donate platelets, you must make an appointment. Donating platelets takes up to 3 hours (including health history and setting up equipment), but the chances of feeling sluggish afterwards is very slim (and it uses a smaller needle than the ones used for normal blood donations!). The closest location to donate platelets is located at United Blood Services in Fargo, ND. If you have questions or wish to make an appointment to donate, call United Blood Services at (800) 917-4929. Another thing to consider is that there are plenty of people who are unable to donate any blood due to their own autoimmune disorders, other health conditions. If you are unable to donate platelets, or if needles just aren’t your thing, you can make a monetary donation to support research and awareness by clicking on the following link.