What Is ITP?
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.
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.
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.
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.