Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a disorder that can lead to easy or excessive bruising and bleeding. The bleeding results from unusually low levels of platelets — the cells that help your blood clot.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, which is also called immune thrombocytopenic purpura, affects both children and adults. Children often develop idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura after a viral infection and usually recover fully without treatment. In adults, however, the disorder is often chronic.

Treatment of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura depends on your symptoms, your platelet count and your age. If you don't have signs of bleeding and your platelet count isn't too low, treatment for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura usually isn't necessary. More serious cases may be treated with medications or, in critical situations, with surgery.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) may have no symptoms. When signs and symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Easy or excessive bruising (purpura) — your skin naturally bruises and bleeds more easily as you age, but this shouldn't be confused with ITP
  • Superficial bleeding into your skin that appears as a rash of pinpoint-sized reddish-purple spots (petechiae), usually on your lower legs
  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts
  • Spontaneous bleeding from nose
  • Bleeding gums, especially after dental work
  • Blood in urine or stools
  • Unusually heavy menstrual flow
  • Fatigue

When to see a doctor

If you or your child has abnormal bleeding or bruising, or develops a rash of pinpoint-sized red spots, see your doctor. It's also important to seek medical advice if you're a woman who suddenly develops significantly increased menstrual bleeding, as this may be a sign of ITP.

Serious or widespread bleeding indicates an emergency and requires immediate care.

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