Friday, May 21, 2010

More Thoughts on ITP

ITP has a new name, or at least a more efficient attempt at nomenclature. New research on the condition was reported in the March edition of the American journal, Hematologist. The very first news was the name change, according to Professor of Pediatrics at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical College, Dr James Bussel.

“There is now a standard nomenclature. ITP is now immune thrombocytopenia; the “i” is no longer “idiopathic” and “purpura” is no longer part of the name,” he reported.

Well, so now the medicos no longer confess in the condition’s name that they don’t know the cause. It is now officially an auto-immune disease and perhaps they have some better idea as the original cause of the condition.

New Hypotheses on the Pathology of ITP

Dr Bussel reported that understanding the underlying pathology of ITP has changed. The old idea was that thrombocytopenia resulted from antibody-mediated platelet destruction.

Now there are two new concepts. The most developed hypothesis is that the same antibodies that mediate platelet destruction also impair platelet production by damaging the megakaryocytes (the bone marrow cells responsible for the production of thrombocytes) and/or blocking their ability to release proto-platelets.

That's one idea. Here's another: “An exciting but to-be-explored area involves the role of platelet reactive cytotoxic CD8+ cells. These cells clearly exist, but their clinical relevance is not known,” Dr Bussel reported.

Another area of intensive investigation involves T-regulatory cells, which have been reported to be deficient in ITP in several studies, but as yet there are no results.

Eradicating H pylori Infection Lifts Platelet Numbers

Some researchers have suggested than an infection with Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible for causing stomach ulcers, may have a limiting effect on the numbers of platelets in people already suffering from ITP.

An article in the journal Blood in February 2009, reported on a systematic review of all the studies published dealing with H pylori infection in patients with ITP. The researchers wanted to test “whether the eradication of H. pylori infection can increase the platelet count in patients with immune thrombocytopenic purpura”, which they said was “still a controversial issue”.

They looked at 25 studies including 1555 patients, and saw a 42.7 percent increase in patients’ platelet counts from around 30 to 100, and a 53 per cent increase in patients’ doubling of platelets from around 30 after treatment to eradicate H. pylori infection.

The researchers said responses were better in countries with a high background infection of H. pylori, but concluded that “the detection and eradication of H. pylori infection should be considered in the work-up of patients with seemingly typical ITP”.

I’ll certainly be discussing a test for H. pylori with my GP!

On the Way Up, I Think

For the past two or three weeks I’ve been feeling stronger and healthier, which is a great improvement. For three weeks in a row my platelet count sat at 46, so my doctor and I reduced my steroid dose by a whisker – 0.5 mg – to 7mg a day.

The following week the count dropped to 32. I thought this was a disaster, but my doctor was much calmer. All my other blood chemistry was good – haemoglobin back to normal, non-anaemic levels, kidney and liver functions good, and the cytotoxic leucocytes – the white blood cells eating up my platelets like Pac-Man in my bloodstream – were back down to a normal level. She tweaked my Chinese herbs some more and cautioned calm.

This week, the platelets have crept back to 36, and my physical energy and brain power are both at about 70 percent of what they used to be. I feel scarily normal, and will have to work hard at not working hard – that is, pacing myself to take lots of rests, do as much exercise as I can without tiring, and enjoy time with friends. Although I feel capable of working, I must be aware that I’m not 100 percent.

Meditation and Staying in the Now

In the past couple of weeks I’ve started seeing a psychologist to help me with depression – a normal side-effect of a chronic health condition, which is apparently exacerbated by the steroids. After a couple of sessions discussing the meaning of life (the old ‘why me?’ cry, when struck by crisis like diagnosis with a potentially life-threatening illness), we decided that what I needed was help with focus. Staying in the now.

So I have a cd with meditation exercises, and as well as going for a walk every day, I must now sit down quietly for at least 10 minutes and try to still my anxious, chattering mind. I know from reading about meditation that it can help lower blood pressure. I wonder if there’s any study done into the beneficial effects of meditation on platelet counts?