Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP): What You Need to Know

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is an autoimmune disease where the body's own immune system begins to attack and destroy healthy platelets. Platelets are key to the formation of blood clots and are essential for preventing excessive bleeding. ITP is considered a disorder of impaired platelet production rather than destruction.

ITP is most common in children, although adults can also be affected. It usually presents itself as easy bruising or bleeding, and in some cases, a petechial rash on the arms, legs, and trunk. Other symptoms include fatigue, nosebleeds, excessive menstrual bleeding, gum bleeding, gastrointestinal bleeding, headache, and dizziness.

What are the Causes of ITP?

The exact cause of ITP is still not known. However, it is believed to be caused by an overactive immune system that mistakenly identifies healthy platelets as foreign bodies and begins attacking them. This abnormal response can be triggered by a virus, such as hepatitis C, HIV, or Epstein-Barr, or it can occur without any known cause.

How is ITP Diagnosed?

ITP is usually diagnosed based on symptoms and a physical exam. Blood tests, such as a complete blood count (CBC) and a platelet count, can be used to confirm the diagnosis. Additional tests, such as a bone marrow biopsy or a CT scan, may be ordered to rule out other conditions.

Treatment and Management of ITP

The goal of treatment is to reduce symptoms and prevent serious complications, such as excessive bleeding. Treatment options will depend on the severity of symptoms and may include:

  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system.
  • Immunosuppressive drugs to control the immune response.
  • Intravenous immune globulin (IVIG) to increase platelet count.
  • Plasmapheresis to remove antibodies binding to platelets.
  • Surgery to remove the spleen.
  • Blood transfusions to replace platelets.

In many cases, the platelet count will return to normal without treatment. However, some people with ITP will require lifelong treatment to manage their symptoms.

Living with ITP

Living with ITP can be challenging, but there are many ways to manage the condition. People with ITP should avoid activities that can cause injury, such as contact sports. They should also take care to practice good hygiene and wear protective clothing and footwear when necessary. It is also important to monitor blood levels regularly and follow any treatment plans prescribed by the doctor.