Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
 

Immune (Idiopathic) Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Immune (Idiopathic) Thrombocytopenic Purpura

What is immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)?

ITP is a blood disorder characterized by an abnormal decrease in the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets are cells in the blood that help stop bleeding. A decrease in platelets can result in easy bruising, bleeding gums, and internal bleeding.

Who is affected by ITP?

ITP is a fairly common blod disorder that both children and adults can develop. 

There are two forms of ITP:

What causes idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura?

ITP is a result of the immune system being stimulated to attack the body's own platelets. Most often this is a result of antibody production against platelets, though in a small number of cases a type of white blood cell called T-cells will directly attack platelets. This immune system error may be a result of the following:

What are the symptoms of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura?

Normal platelet count is in the range of 150,000 to 450,000. With ITP, the platelet count is less than 100,000. By the time significant bleeding occurs, the patient may have a platelet count of less than 10,000. The lower the platelet count, the greater the risk of bleeding.

Because platelets help stop bleeding, the symptoms of ITP are related to increased bleeding. However, each person may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

The symptoms of ITP may resemble other medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura may include:

Historically, a bone marrow aspiration was required to make a diagnosis of ITP. It may not be absolutely necessary in the face of a positive antiplatelet antibody test, but it is still commonly performed to look at the production of platelets and to rule out any abnormal cells the marrow may be producing that could lower platelet counts. A bone marrow aspiration is necessary for a diagnosis if the antiplatelet antibody testing is negative.

Treatment for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura

Specific treatment for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura will be determined by your doctor based on:

When treatment is necessary, the two most common forms of immediate treatment are steroids and intravenous gamma globulin:

Other treatments for ITP may include:

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