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 DCI Home: Blood Diseases: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: Key Points

      Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura
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Key Points

Key Points

  • Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a bleeding condition in which the blood doesn’t clot as it should. This is due to a low number of blood cells called platelets.
  • Platelets circulate through the blood vessels and help stop bleeding by sticking together (clotting) to seal small cuts or breaks.
  • In most cases, the body’s immune system is thought to cause ITP. Normally your immune system helps your body fight off infections and diseases, but if you have ITP, your immune system attacks and destroys its own platelets—for an unknown reason.
  • ITP can affect children and adults of all ages. More women than men get ITP.
  • There are two types of ITP. Acute ITP is usually a short-term illness that usually affects children and often occurs after a viral infection. Most children get well quickly without any treatment. Adults most often have long-lasting (chronic) ITP. Symptoms can vary a great deal, and some adults who have mild ITP don’t need treatment.
  • People with ITP may have signs of bleeding, such as bruises (purpura) that appear for no reason or tiny red dots (petechiae) that are visible on the skin.
  • Bleeding in ITP also occurs in the form of nosebleeds, bleeding gums, heavy menstrual bleeding, or other bleeding that’s hard to stop. Bleeding in the brain as a result of ITP is very rare, but can be life threatening when it occurs.
  • ITP is diagnosed based on your medical history, a physical exam, and results from blood tests.
  • Treatment depends on the type and severity of the illness. Those who have more severe symptoms are usually first treated with medicines such as steroids.
  • The spleen is sometimes removed if treatment with medicine fails to keep the platelet level high enough to prevent bleeding.
  • You can’t prevent ITP, but you can prevent its complications. Avoid medicines that can affect your platelets (such as aspirin and ibuprofen), protect yourself from injuries that can cause bruising or bleeding, and seek treatment if any signs of infection develop.

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