Wednesday, June 21, 2017

ITP and Me - My Health Update

Last Monday, Perry took the day off work so he would be free to get the kids off the bus while I went to my follow-up doctors appointment regarding my low platelet counts. The quick answer, is that I have an answer, but not a complete one.

Before my appointment began, I had another blood redraw to see what my platelet count was currently. That whole process takes only a few minutes, so I had ample time to sit around and wait as my doctor was running late.

Got platelets?  (I.T.P Awareness)At the appointment, my count dropped 3 units to 66 units. Though it is still much lower than the minimum of 140, it has seemed to stabilize, which is better than it roller coaster-ing I suppose. Receiving all the results from all the samples they drew took some time. Some were sent to Seattle, and some to Oregon State University.

She went through all the positive things first. I don't have a vitamin or iron deficiency, nor do I carry the gene for rheumatoid arthritis. That was relieving to hear, as it does run in the family on my dad's side. I did, however, test positive when they tested for lupus.

Some Auto-immune disease humor for you, though quite frankly, there is nothing funny about being a sufferer.For those who aren't aware what lupus is, it's an immune disorder. Normally our bodies create protein, called antibodies, to protect us from bacteria, germs, and viruses. In people with lupus, the immune system can't tell the difference between the invaders and the body's healthy tissue, resulting in autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. It can attack skin, joints, and/or organs.

Even though the test came up positive, it is not definitively clear whether or not I have it. More tests from a rheumatologist are going to be needed to confirm it's existence in my body. She said it could be from a difference immune disorder instead, and then rambled off a few. The only one I can remember is malaise. While I don't know much about malaise, I have read that it can be associated with depression and fatigue. I'll go in for more testing right before my trip with the kids to Montana.

The last report she pulled up was from a lab from Oregon State University that confirmed I do have an immune disorder - immune thrombocytopenia, abbreviated as ITP. To put it simply, my body is getting rid of my blood platelets too soon, so my bone marrow is working in overdrive trying to keep up a supply of platelets. Without platelets, my blood has a harder time clotting.

What does ITP look like for me?

Let's see... the big one is that I bruise easily. Really easily. My legs are constantly cover in bruises, most of which I don't know where they came from. While I haven't had much of a problem with it in the past, over the last month or so, my gums have started to bleed when brushing. It's more annoying than anything.
The bruises on my body tend to make me a bit self conscious. Most of the time, they are dark purple and just look terrible. The bruise on my thigh was from this past December. I went sledding with some friends, and never crashed once, but woke up the next morning to this. It took close to three weeks to heal itself. The other picture is of the back of my legs on Sunday. The bottom bruise on the right is now pink and purple. The tops of my thighs are also speckled with bruises as well. As I've said, I've always bruised easily, it's just more or less frustrating now knowing that I didn't do anything to earn that marking. 

Though my day-to-day life will continue to stay the same, I do have to be extra careful when getting sick as having bacteria, viruses, and germs in my body can cause a flare-up of my immune disorder - in this case, a drop in my platelets. Anytime I have spontaneous nose bleeds, or begin getting purple/red dots on my skin, I need to have my count re-checked incase it has dropped too low. If it drops too low, spontaneous bleeding can occur - not just having nose bleeds, but organ walls and vein/artery walls can break which could result in, well, death.

While I don't necessarily have to give it up, alcohol consumption must be done responsibly (obviously) because it can damage my bone marrow, which is responsible for making blood platelets. Other things that can do the same would be drinking things with quinine (like tonic water), or beverages with aspartame (like diet pop and low-fat/sugar free candy and pop). The hard part for me will be reducing the amount of tomatoes, garlic, onion, blueberries, and grapes I consume as they can hinder blood clotting as well.

One of these days, I'll get myself together a list of foods that I should be eating more of to help boost my platelet count, though diet isn't directly linked to ITP. Eating a well balanced diet is always beneficial though!

For now, I wait for July to come so I can chat more with the rheumatologist. Really, I just want to know why I'm so stinkin' tired. All. The. Time. Once a month for the next several months I'll return to the oncology clinic to recheck my numbers and hope they stabilize. If they continue to drop lower, we'll be talking about doing steroid injections. I'm hoping it doesn't come to that though! I'll update you when I recover from my trip to Montana :)

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