Purpura is a condition that leads to unsightly spotting on the skin. The immediate cause is the bursting of small blood vessels under the skin that allows the blood to pool underneath the epidermis. As a result, purpura leads to blotchy red patches that can occur almost anywhere on the body.
The condition is fairly common, particularly among older people, and it’s likely that most of us will experience it at some point in our lives. But if you’re already suffering from the condition, you might wonder what causes it. And you may want to know what you can do to treat it. So, let’s talk about what purpura is and what you can do about it.
What Causes Purpura?
It’s sometimes difficult to judge what causes purpura. There are so many different reasons that your blood vessels may begin to burst that it can be hard to figure out the exact source of the problem.
But the basic mechanism behind it has to do with the levels of platelets in your blood. The platelets are the basic cells that carry oxygen through the circulatory system. And how many of them you have determines what type of purpura you have: thrombocytopenic or nonthrombocytopenic.
Thrombocytopenic cases of purpura mean that the patient has normal platelet counts in their blood and nonthrombocytopenic means that they have lower than normal levels.
The cause of the condition depends on which type you suffer from. In the first case, where your platelet count is normal, there are a few different things that might trigger the condition:
- Medications that affect platelet clotting.
- Weak blood vessels.
- Conditions that cause inflammation of the blood vessels.
- Certain vitamin deficiencies.
And in the second case, nonthrombocytopenic, there are a number of other possibilities including:
- Disorders affecting blood clotting.
- Congenital disorders like Ehlers-Danloss syndrome.
- Medications that affect platelet counts.
- Drugs that cause your immune system to begin attacking your platelets.
- Infections in the blood stream.
- HIV infection.
- Certain tick-borne illnesses.
- Systematic lupus.
To diagnose purpura, the doctor will do a simple examination of the skin. Because purpura is so visibly distinctive on the skin, it’s often easy to diagnose the condition by simply looking. If the doctor thinks you might have the condition, they will likely perform a test of your blood to check your platelet levels. This test will help them begin to decide what is causing your condition.
It’s worth noting that several of these potential causes are conditions common in people with fibromyalgia. For reasons that we don’t quite understand, people with fibromyalgia are significantly more likely to develop autoimmune diseases. These conditions include conditions like lupus, a systemic autoimmune condition, and arteritis, which is an inflammation of the blood vessels.
But the good news is that it is possible to treat the condition.
How Is It Treated?
The type of treatment your doctor will recommend depends on what is causing your condition. But most treatments involve stimulating your body’s production of platelets which help clot bleeding and prevent ruptures in the veins. There are a few different medications that are very commonly prescribed.
The first is corticosteroids. Corticosteroids are a type of hormone that your body naturally produces to help heal injuries and fight inflammation. But they can also help boost your body’s production of platelets in the blood. So they’re a good treatment if you’re suffering from a condition that lowers your platelet levels.
The other most common types of drugs prescribed to treat the condition are romiplostim and eltrombopag, which both work by stimulating the production of platelets in the bone marrow.
Finally, there is a surgical option for treating the condition. If other forms of treatment prove ineffective, your doctor may schedule you for an operation where they remove the spleen. The spleen is the organ in the body that helps destroy platelets so that they can be recycled. By removing the spleen, the surgeon can help you rapidly raise your platelet count. This is a good option if you’re suffering from another, dangerous condition causing low platelet levels.
But your doctor will be able to give you an expert opinion on what’s causing your condition and what you can do to treat it. But while it might be tempting to simply endure purpura or chalk it up to natural aging, it’s important to seek treatment. The condition can often be a sign of something more dangerous going on and so it’s worth getting checked out.
So, are you suffering from purpura? What do you do to treat it? Let us know in the comments.