ITP, immune thrombocytopenia (also known as immune or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura) is an autoimmune disease. In autoimmune diseases, the body mounts an immune attack toward one or more seemingly normal organ systems. In ITP, platelets are the target. They are marked as foreign by the immune system and eliminated in the spleen, the liver, and by other means. In addition to increased platelet destruction, some people with ITP also have impaired platelet production.
A normal platelet count is between 150,000 and 400,000/microliter of blood. If someone has a platelet count lower than 100,000/microliter of blood with no other reason for low platelets, that person is considered to have ITP.1 There is no accurate, definitive test to diagnose ITP.
With few platelets, people with ITP often have bleeding symptoms such as spontaneous bruising, petechiae (pe-TEEK-ee-ay), tiny red dots on the skin, or for women, heavy menses. More severe bleeding symptoms include blood blisters on the inside of the mouth, blood in the urine or stool, or bleeding in the brain.
Treatments for the disease vary depending on the platelet count, severity of symptoms, age, lifestyle, personal preferences, and any other associated diseases. Some people may choose to not treat their disease and live with low platelets.
While it may seem like ITP is a simple disease, there are nuances to the diagnosis, differences in the disease between children and adults, and variations in how the disease responds to treatments. The pages in this section provide more details to help you or your loved one manage the disease.
The information on this website is provided by the Platelet Disorder Support Association (PDSA) and is meant for educational purposes only. Consult a health care provider concerning your particular condition.