Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), sometimes also called immune thrombocytopenic purpura or idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the body destroys platelets too quickly. Platelets are the part of blood that helps control bleeding.
In healthy children, the body produces proteins called antibodies that guard against infection. ITP causes the body to make abnormal antibodies that stick to platelets, which the spleen (the organ that helps filter infections in the blood) recognizes as foreign and destroys. Rather than living the normal seven to 10 days, platelets survive only for a few hours in a child with ITP. A viral infection may trigger ITP because antibodies the body develops to fight infection can also attack platelets.
Children with immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) are treated through the Platelet Function Disorders Program at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Continue reading to learn more about ITP or visit the Platelet Function Disorders Program to learn about our expertise and treatment options for this condition.
Acute immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), which accounts for more than 90 percent of cases, occurs between the ages of 2 and 6, with sudden onset of symptoms. These symptoms usually resolve in less than six months, often within a few weeks. With chronic ITP, which is more common in adults, symptoms last a minimum of six months and can persist for years, requiring regular follow-up with a hematologist (a doctor who specializes in blood disorders). Symptoms of ITP include:
In rare cases, life-threatening bleeding inside the brain can result from head trauma.
Doctors diagnose ITP with:
A bone marrow biopsy usually is not necessary. After all tests are completed, doctors will be able to outline the best treatment options.
There are a number of treatments to increase platelets, but there is no cure for immune thrombocytopenia (ITP). Specific treatment is not always necessary, but the most common are:
Other treatments include surgery to remove the spleen (considered for older children with chronic ITP), hormone therapy (for teenage girls to stop their menstrual cycle if excessive bleeding occurs), and antibiotics to treat infections.