Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is an autoimmune disease that causes excessive or easy bleeding. If you have ITP, your body’s immune system makes antibodies that attack platelet cells in the blood. Because platelets help blood to clot, reduced numbers of platelets results in easy bruising and bleeding.
ITP occurs in both adults and children. Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown. Children are more likely to develop ITP after a viral infection, and often make a full recovery from the disease. Adults often develop it as a chronic condition; more women than men have ITP.
You may not know that you have idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura until you begin to bleed frequently. Other symptoms include easy bruising, a rash of small red spots that indicate leaks or breakages in capillaries, bleeding from the gums, increased and heavy nose bleeds, or unusual bleeding from any area of the body, including in the urine or stool.
Any bleeding that doesn’t stop requires immediate medical attention. If applying pressure to the bleeding area doesn’t stop the flow of blood, seek emergency care.
Some types of over-the-counter and prescribed medications, including ibuprofen, can impact platelet production. If you take any of these drugs, your doctor will help you find an alternative. You may also be prescribed medication to increase platelet production.
Corticosteroids may be temporarily given to reduce immune system function, but these drugs can have side effects if given long term. Other immune suppressants may be used to achieve the same results.
In severe cases, you may need surgery to remove your spleen. The spleen is where most of the platelets in your blood are destroyed, so taking it out can help increase platelet count. However, not having a spleen can increase your chances of developing infections throughout your lifetime.