What is immune thrombocytopenia (ITP)?
Thrombocytes are platelets Platelets The main components of blood include Plasma Red blood cells White blood cells Platelets read more , which are small cells that circulate in your bloodstream and help blood clot. "-Penia" means too few. So thrombocytopenia is having too few platelets in your blood.
Immune thrombocytopenia is when you have too few platelets because your own immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more destroyed them.
With too few platelets, you bleed easily
You may have tiny purple spots on your skin and get nosebleeds and bleeding gums
Doctors diagnose ITP with blood tests
In children, ITP usually goes away on its own
Adults with ITP may get corticosteroids or other medicines to slow down their immune system
If you're an adult and medicines don't work, doctors may take out your spleen
What causes ITP?
ITP happens when your immune system Overview of the Immune System The immune system is your body's defense system. It helps protect you from illness and infection. The immune system's job is to attack things that don’t belong in your body, including: Germs... read more makes antibodies What are the main parts of the immune system? that attack and destroy your platelets. Doctors don’t know why this happens, but in children it often happens after a virus.
What are the symptoms of ITP?
Symptoms of ITP can develop suddenly or slowly. You may have:
Tiny red spots on your skin or inside your mouth
Bruises after very minor injuries
Heavy menstrual periods
You're more likely to bleed the lower your platelet count drops. People who have very few platelets may bleed heavily from their intestines or have life-threatening bleeding in their brain.
How can doctors tell if I have ITP?
Blood tests to count the number of platelets in a sample of blood
Tests to look for other causes of a low platelet count
Rarely, doctors take a small sample of your bone marrow (bone marrow biopsy) to find out how well your body is producing platelets.
How do doctors treat ITP?
Doctors treat ITP with:
Medicine to help your body make more platelets
Medicine to slow down your immune system
Rarely, surgery to your spleen (splenectomy)
If you have life-threatening bleeding, doctors may give you a platelet transfusion. Platelet transfusions don't usually work well because the antibodies in your blood attack the transfused platelets too.
Removing the spleen can help keep more platelets circulating in the blood.
In adults, ITP is usually long-lasting, but in children it often gets better on its own.