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Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)
Alternative namesImmune thrombocytopenic purpura; ITP
DefinitionIdiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a bleeding disorder characterized by too few platelets in the blood. This is because platelets are being destroyed by the immune system. Idiopathic means the exact cause of the disease is unknown.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The disease occurs when immune system cells, called lymphocytes, produce antibodies against platelets. Platelets are necessary for normal blood clotting. They clump together to plug small holes in damaged vessels.
The presence of antibodies on platelets leads to their destruction in the spleen. A characteristic skin rash, easy bruising, abnormal menstrual bleeding, or sudden and severe loss of blood from the gastrointestinal tract may occur.
Usually, no other abnormal findings are present. In children, the disease is sometimes preceded by a viral infection and usually runs its course without treatment. In adults, it is more often a chronic (long-term) disease and can follow a viral infection, certain drugs, pregnancy, or other immune disorders.
Signs and testsTests include:
In children, the disease often runs its course without treatment.
People with ITP should avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, and warfarin because these drugs interfere with platelet function and blood clotting, and bleeding may occur.
Expectations (prognosis)The chance of remission (a symptom-free period) is good with prednisone or a splenectomy. Rarely, ITP may become a chronic ailment in adults and reappear, even after remission.
Calling your health care providerGo to the emergency room or call the local emergency number (such as 911) if severe bleeding occurs or other new symptoms develop.
PreventionThe causes and risk factors are unknown (except in children when it may be related to a viral infection). Therefore, prevention is unknown.
Update Date: 5/1/2003Ezra E. W. Cohen, M.D., Section of Hematology/Oncology, Department of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT