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Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a blood disorder characterized by a decrease in the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets are cells in the blood that help stop bleeding. A decrease in platelets can cause easy bruising, bleeding gums, and internal bleeding. This disease is caused by an immune reaction against one's own platelets. It has also been called autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura.
ITP is a fairly common blood disorder that both children and adults can develop.
There are two forms of ITP:
In ITP, the immune system is stimulated to attack your body's own platelets. Most often this is a result of antibody production against platelets. 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 any of the following:
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, you 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 look like other medical problems. Always consult your health care provider for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical exam, you may have these tests:
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 done 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.
Specific treatment for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura will be determined by your health care provider 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:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your health care provider:
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