What Is ITP?

By Michelle Ponte

ITP, or immune thrombocytopenia, is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys platelets, cells that help blood clot. As a result, platelet counts fall to beneath 100,000/microliter of blood, putting a person at risk for serious bleeding and bruising.

What happens in ITP

Normally, special cells in the bone marrow produce platelets—to the tune of about 35,000/microliter of blood a day. They live about 10 days, then are flushed from the body via the spleen and the liver. But in ITP, platelets are flushed more quickly than normal, causing platelet counts to plummet to levels as low as 10,000/microliter of blood or under. And newer research reveals many people with ITP also have a problem producing platelets. With insufficient platelets, your blood will struggle to form clots, leading to bleeding symptoms and bruise marks. Bleeding or bruises can occur for no reason. You may notice petechiae, tiny purple spots caused by broken blood vessels. Some days you may feel tired or blue.

Who gets ITP?

ITP affects men and women at about the same rate, except in the middle-adult years (ages 30 to 60), when the disease seems to be more common in women.

How long does ITP last?

ITP can last for more than a year; in some cases, it never goes into remission. Some people (mostly children) get acute ITP, which goes into remission within a year. While there is no cure for ITP, platelet counts do rise with ITP treatment. It can take a while to find your best option, but the payoff—renewed confidence and greater well-being—is worth the wait.

Next - ITP Causes & Risk Factors 
Published July 2011

ITP Basics
What Is ITP?
ITP Causes & Risk Factors
ITP Symptoms
ITP Diagnosis
Your ITP Healthcare Team
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Top 3 Myths About ITP

 

ITP Treatment
Explore Your ITP Treatment Options
New ITP Drugs Foster Platelet Growth

ITP Platelet Tracker
How Well Is Your ITP Treatment Working?
Splenectomy: Critical Information
    on This Surgery
How Medication Can Help Your ITP
Treating ITP With Corticosteroids
ITP Drug-Safety Guide

ITP Features
ITP Symptoms and Early Detection
Platelet Counts: Know Your Numbers
Be Prepared for an Emergency
    With ITP

 

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