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Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

What Is Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura?

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a bleeding disorder in which the blood does not clot properly. The bleeding is due to a low number of platelets. Platelets help the blood clot and stop bleeding. People with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura often have purple bruises that appear on the skin. The bruises are caused by bleeding has occurred in small blood vessels under the skin.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is also called ITP.

What Are the Symptoms of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura?

The most common symptom of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is bleeding, bruising, and tiny red dots on the skin or mucous membranes. Sometimes bleeding from the nose, gums, digestive or urinary tracts may occur. Rarely, bleeding within the brain occurs.

What causes Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura?

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is an autoimmune disease. The decrease in platelets occurs because the immune system attacks and destroys the body's own platelets. The reason the immune system attacks is own platelets are unknown.

What Are Platelets?

Platelets are small blood cell fragments that are made in your bone marrow. Platelets circulate through your blood vessels and help stop bleeding by sticking together to seal small cuts or breaks in tiny blood vessels.

Platelets are also called thrombocytes.

Types of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

There are two main types of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura: acute and chronic.

Acute idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura generally lasts less than 6 months. It mainly occurs in children, both boys and girls, and is the most common type of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. It typically occurs following an infection caused by a virus. Acute idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura often goes away on its own within a few weeks or months and does not return. Treatment may not be needed.

Chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura usually lasts 6 months or longer. It most often affects adults. However, some teenagers and even younger children get this type of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Chronic idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura affects women 2 to 3 times more often than men. Treatment depends on how severe the bleeding symptoms are and the platelet count. In mild cases, treatment may not be needed.

Treatment for Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Treatment of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura in adults is aimed at increasing the blood platelet count. Patients may take prednisone for several weeks, even a month or longer. In some cases, when the patient stops taking prednisone, the platelet counts may get low again.

If prednisone doesn't help enough, the spleen can be removed. The spleen is an organ that makes most of the antibodies that destroy the blood platelets. The spleen also destroys old or damaged blood cells.

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