Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP),
previously called immune thrombocytopenic purpura or idiopathic
thrombocytopenic purpura, is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body
attacks its own platelets and destroys them too quickly. Platelets are a part
of blood that helps control bleeding. ITP affects at least 3,000 children under
the age of 16 each year in the United States.
While ITP often arises after a viral infection,
for the majority of cases the cause is unknown. Luckily, acute ITP, the most
common form, usually goes away on its own over the course of weeks or months,
sometimes without treatment. Chronic ITP appears most frequently in adults, but
occasionally is seen in children. This form of ITP is more serious, lasting for
years and typically requiring specialized follow-up care.
Children and young adults with
immune thrombocytopenia are treated through the Blood
Disorders Center at
Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s. To learn more about ITP, continue reading below.
information on ITP written specifically for children and teens, visit our ITP Kids pages.
Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is
an autoimmune disorder (meaning the immune system
attacks the body’s own tissues) that occurs when the body attacks its
platelets, a part of the blood that helps control bleeding by forming blood
There are two kinds of ITP. Acute
thrombocytopenia is the most common form of ITP—accounting for more than 90
percent of cases—and occurring between the ages of 2 and 6.
Chronic thrombocytopenia is more
common in adults but can occur in children.
first step in treating your child is forming an accurate and complete
diagnosis. ITP can usually be identified by:
all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment
are a number of treatments that can help increase platelet levels in children
with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), but there is no cure. The majority of
children with ITP get better gradually on their own in a few days, weeks or
sometimes months, with or without treatment.
treatment is necessary, the most common forms are:
gamma globulin (also known as intravenous
immunoglobulin, or IVIG):
Rho (D) immune globulin (also known as WinRho®):
treatments for ITP may include:
with ITP also may receive antibiotics to treat infections.
Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is a world leader in ITP research.
We are currently conducting a number of studies to improve the diagnosis and
treatment of ITP and other platelet disorders.
many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide
than 80 percent of children with treated ITP recover on their own in days, weeks
or months. Fatal brain hemorrhages rarely occur with steroid, intravenous Rh
immune globulin or intravenous gamma globulin therapy.
of ITP is uncommon, but it can occur up to several years after the initial
episode and may be associated with another viral infection.
my child participate in sports or other athletic activities?
The sports and activities that your child can participate in will depend on her
platelet count (the severity of the ITP). Your child’s physician can make
specific recommendations on the types of activities that may be appropriate for
her depending on her platelet levels. (Learn more about ITP and sports on our ITP Kids pages.)