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Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

Abstract

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NORD is very grateful to Kenneth M. Algazy, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, for assistance in the preparation of this report.

Synonyms of Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

  • autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura
  • ITP
  • primary thrombocytopenic purpura

Disorder Subdivisions

  • No subdivisions found.

General Discussion

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a not infrequent autoimmune bleeding disorder characterized by the abnormally low levels of blood cells called platelets, creating a condition known as thrombocytopenia. Platelets are specialized blood cells that help prevent and stop bleeding by inducing clotting. In many ITP cases, there are no readily apparent causes or underlying disease (idiopathic), but frequently there are associated collagen vascular diseases or underlying neoplasms, most frequently lymphoid. The cells of the immune system, lymphocytes, produce anti-platelet antibodies that attach to the platelets. The presence of antibodies on platelets leads to their destruction in the spleen. The disorder is characterized by abnormal bleeding into the skin resulting in bruising, which is what the term purpura means. Bleeding from mucous membranes also occurs, and may subsequently result in low levels of circulating red blood cells (anemia).

ITP presents as a brief, self-limiting form of the disorder (acute ITP) or a longer-term form (chronic ITP). Acute ITP accounts for about 50% of cases, and chronic ITP accounts for the remainder. Eighty percent (80%) of the children with ITP have the acute form while the chronic form affects mostly adults. The acute form usually resolves without treatment (spontaneously) within three to six months. When thrombocytopenia lasts for more than six to 12 months, ITP is classified as the chronic form. Onset of acute ITP is often rapid, while the onset of the chronic form may be gradual.

Organizations related to Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

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