Receiving a rare disease diagnosis can be difficult, frustrating, and scary. Laura Hamilton, the host of A Place in the Sun, is no stranger to this phenomenon; last year she was diagnosed with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), a rare blood disorder. She spoke to the Mirror about her experience, saying that while it was frightening, she is managing the condition and very fortunate.
Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) occurs when the immune system destroys the platelets, leading to excessive bleeding and bruising. The incidence is one to five out of every 10,000 people. At times, this condition does not show symptoms. If they are present, they include easy and excessive bleeding and bruising, superficial bleeding that appears as a rash, bleeding from the gums and nose, blood in the urine and stool, and a very heavy menstrual flow.
ITP occurs when antibodies are made by the immune system to destroy platelets. It is not a familial disease, and researchers are unsure as to what exactly causes it. They have realized that it often occurs after viral infections, using certain drugs, during pregnancy, or with other immune system disorders. If this disease occurs in children, it can go away without treatment. Treatment consists of steroid medication, typically prednisone. Other medications that may be prescribed are danazol, infusions of gamma globulin, immunosuppressants, anti-RhD drugs, and medications that stimulate the bone marrow to make more platelets. In severe cases, surgery to remove the spleen will be performed.
Laura became concerned about her health after noticing several, dark bruises spattered across her body. She had never noticed the problem before, and it only began after she gave birth to her daughter Tahlia. As she was on a strict diet and working hard to lose baby weight, she first blamed it on her lifestyle. She had always bruised more often than others and wondered if the addition of the special diet was simply aggravating that.
This thought process changed after she spoke to her mother-in-law about her symptoms. She urged Laura to see a doctor, citing a blood disorder as a possible culprit. Luckily, Laura listened and visited her general physician, who shared her mother-in-law’s concerns. He sent her to receive specialized testing to further investigate.
These tests revealed that Laura’s blood platelet levels were extremely low, sitting at only 23 K/uL. The normal levels are anywhere from 140 to 400 K/uL. Her doctor told her that she was at an elevated risk of hemorrhaging and brain bleeds, and she began treatment immediately.
Fortunately, Laura has managed her condition and lives relatively symptom-free now. She has begun to open up about her experience to educate others. You can read more about her story here.