What is immune thrombocytopenia purpura?

Immune Thrombocytopenia Purpura

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP): Overview

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, is a blood problem. It happens when your immune system does not work as it should and destroys platelets in your blood.

Platelets are a kind of cell in your blood. They have a sticky surface that helps them form clots to stop bleeding.

Your blood can't clot if you don't have enough platelets. This causes abnormal bleeding. Bleeding can get worse over time, or it can come on fast.

To treat ITP, you may need to take medicines to help stop the destruction of platelets. You may need platelets added to your blood. Or you may need surgery to remove your spleen. Your spleen's job is to remove platelets from your body. So taking out the spleen helps increase your platelet count.

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is an immune disorder in which the body attacks the cells responsible for blood clotting (platelets), resulting in bleeding. The cause of ITP is not known.

People who have this disorder may have bruises or blood spots (purpura) on the skin or in the mouth. Internal bleeding is a more serious complication that can occur.

Some cases of ITP may go away on their own and do not require treatment. In other cases, treatment may be needed to prevent bleeding. Some medicines can help the body make more platelets. Steroids (such as prednisone) or other medicines may be needed to suppress the immune system. An intravenous (I.V.) infusion of a substance made from human blood plasma (immunoglobulin) may be given. Sometimes you will need to have platelet transfusions. In rare cases, the spleen may need to be removed.

What are the symptoms of immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP)?

Symptoms of ITP include bruises or blood spots (purpura) on the skin or in the mouth. You may also feel tired or have abnormal bleeding. Some people have nosebleeds and bleeding in the mouth or around the gums. Internal bleeding is a more serious problem that can occur.

How is immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) treated?

The goal of treatment for ITP is to increase the number of platelets in your blood. This helps your blood clot and prevents bleeding.

Treatment options include:


These include steroids, IVIg (intravenous immunoglobulin), and others. They stop your immune system from destroying platelets.

Surgery to remove the spleen.

Your spleen's job is to remove platelets from your blood. So taking out the spleen can help keep platelets in your blood.

Platelet transfusions.

This procedure adds platelets to your blood. It's usually used to treat an injury or prepare for surgery. It's not a long-term treatment.

Which treatment your doctor suggests depends on several things. These include the type of ITP you have, how long ago you were diagnosed, your symptoms, and the side effects you had with any past treatment. It can take some time to find the right one.

You may not need treatment if your platelet count is only slightly low.

How is immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP) diagnosed?

Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your past health. You also will be asked what medicines you're taking. You may have some blood tests. Some other conditions can cause similar symptoms. Your doctor may also do tests to rule out those conditions.

How can you care for your child who has immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)?

  • Be safe with medicines. Give your child medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine.
  • Talk to your doctor before you give your child any new supplements or over-the-counter or prescribed medicine.
  • Do not give your child aspirin or other anti-inflammatory medicines (such as ibuprofen or naproxen). Ask your doctor if it's okay to use acetaminophen (Tylenol).
  • Help protect your child from injury. When your child's platelet count is low, avoid activities with physical contact. And avoid any activity, such as biking, skating or climbing, that could put your child at risk for falling and hitting their head.

What is immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)?

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a condition that affects the platelets in your blood. Platelets are a kind of cell. They help form blood clots that can help stop bleeding. With ITP, your body's immune system destroys platelets. Your blood can't clot if it doesn't have enough platelets. This causes bleeding problems.

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) in children: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has signs of severe bleeding. For example:
    • Your child has a severe headache that is different from past headaches.
    • Your child vomits blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
    • Your child's stools are maroon or very bloody.

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is dizzy or lightheaded.
  • Your child has signs of abnormal bleeding, such as:
    • A nosebleed that you can't easily stop. This means it's still bleeding after pressure has been applied for 15 minutes.
    • Stools that are black and look like tar or that have streaks of blood.
    • Blood in the urine.
    • Joint pain.
    • Bruises or red or purple spots under the skin.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your child does not get better as expected.

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