Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) can bring about short-term and long-term considerations for your health. The severity of ITP varies, so you may not need to make significant lifestyle changes. If your ITP is severe and your platelet count is extremely low, your doctor may recommend that you do make some changes. You might even find the changes helpful in symptom management.
Read on to learn more about some of the lifestyle changes you might need to make following an ITP diagnosis. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any lifestyle changes you’re considering.
Reconsider your activities
An ITP diagnosis doesn’t mean you can’t exercise or stay active. Regular exercise is beneficial for long-term health for everyone. However, you may need to adjust the types of activities you participate in.
Contact sports aren’t considered safe because of the risk of high-impact injuries that can lead to bleeding. Some of these activities include:
- tackle football
- skiing or snowboarding
You may be able to safely participate in other sports, such as:
- ping pong
Also, if you ride a bike, a helmet is a necessity when you have ITP.
ITP may cause bruises (purpura) and small, scattered rash-like bruising (petechiae) to spontaneously appear on your skin. You might see these symptoms even if you don’t participate in contact sports. However, taking extra precautions when participating in activities can prevent excessive bleeding from internal and external wounds if you’re injured.
If you are injured, a lack of platelets can make it difficult to stop bleeding. You and your doctor can discuss what activities you could safely participate in depending on your platelet count. A normal level falls somewhere between 140,000 and 450,000 platelets per microliter of blood, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Clean out your medicine cabinet
Certain medications and supplements can increase your bleeding risk. Taking such medications could double your risk if you have a low platelet count.
You should avoid taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) and aspirin. Your doctor may recommend acetaminophen for occasional pain.
Your doctor will also weigh the benefits versus the risks of certain prescription medications that can cause bleeding, such as blood-thinning agents like warfarin. You should avoid prescription-strength ibuprofen and other types of NSAIDs due to the risk of stomach or intestinal bleeding. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) can increase the risk of internal bleeding as well. When SSRIs are combined with NSAIDs, the risk of bleeding becomes even higher.
Tell your doctor about any supplements or herbs you take. Certain supplements such as higher doses of omega-3 fatty acids can interfere with blood clotting and possibly immune function. You may need to avoid these.
Stop drinking alcohol
Alcohol may be beneficial for some adults. Red wine may lower their risk of cardiovascular disease. However, some researchers believe this is due to the substances in wine that come from grapes, such as antioxidants and flavonoids, rather than red wine itself. The key for health is that if you drink alcohol, only drink moderately: This means no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine for women and two 5-ounce glasses for men per day.
Alcohol and ITP aren’t always a healthy mix. The main concern is alcohol’s platelet-lowering capabilities. Long-term alcohol use can also damage your liver and bone marrow, which are important in platelet production. As well, alcohol is a depressant. It can make you tired, but also keep you up at night. Such effects aren’t helpful if you’re dealing with an ongoing illness.
After an ITP diagnosis, talk to your doctor if you drink alcohol. They will likely recommend you stop drinking — at least until your platelet counts normalize.
Your diet can play a role in your ITP treatment plan. A healthy, balanced diet is important for all adults. But when you have ITP, eating the right foods can help you feel better and more energetic.
Certain nutrients, such as vitamin K and calcium, have natural components important to blood clotting. You can find both in dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Calcium is also widely available in dairy products. The European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation recommends that you might need to avoid consuming too much dairy because it may worsen symptoms of autoimmune diseases like ITP. Vitamin D supplementation may also have a role in boosting the immune system in ITP, especially if vitamin D levels are low.
You may also consider other dietary measures:
- Eat organic foods when possible.
- Swap saturated (animal) and trans (man-made) fats for plant-based versions, such as avocados.
- Limit red meats.
Avoid potentially antiplatelet fruits, such as berries, tomatoes, and grapes.
Other lifestyle changes
Changing your job is another consideration if it’s physically demanding or puts you at a high risk for injury. You may consider talking to your employer about ways you can stay on the job while minimizing safety risks.
You may also take some of the following precautions to prevent your risk of injury:
- Always wear a seatbelt (even if you’re not driving).
- Take care when preparing food, especially when using knives.
- Wear protective gloves when you use power tools.
- Be careful around pets. If you have dogs or cats, make sure their nails aren’t sharp so they can’t scratch you.
- Swap your traditional razor for an electric one to prevent cuts.
- Use only soft-bristle toothbrushes.