Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)

Also known as: ITP, idiopathic thrombocytopenia, immune thrombocytopenic purpura.

What is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura?

"Idiopathic" means cause unknown. "Thrombocytopenia" means a low platelet count. Platelets are blood cells that help blood clot thereby stopping bleeding. "Purpura" is the purple color of the skin (like a bruise) seen when bleeding into the skin occurs.

There are 2 forms of the blood disorder called Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP:

  • Acute thrombocytopenic purpura
  • Chronic thrombocytopenic purpura

What causes idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura?

Frequently the cause is unknown; often children will develop ITP after they have the mumps, the flu or another viral infection when it appears that the child's body makes "antibodies" to its own platelets (which destroys them).

What are the signs/symptoms of ITP?

Bleeding problems such as:

  • bruising
  • small dot like bleeds called petechia
  • nosebleeds
  • bleeding in the mouth or gums
  • vomiting blood
  • blood in the urine or stool
  • bleeding into the head, the most dangerous of bleeding which may occur when the platelet count drops below 10,000 (normal count: 150,000- 450,000).

What are immune thrombocytopenic purpura care options?

In many children, the disease resolves on its own over time. In others, depending on a number of factors your pediatrician will discuss with you, medications that suppress the immune system’s destruction of platelets (like steroids, intravenous gamma globulin and others) may increase platelet count.

In severe and/or persistent (and in children fairly rare) cases, surgery to remove the spleen, which is the source of platelet destruction may be considered.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: April 01, 2022 05:42 PM

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