What is ITP?
ITP stands for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. “Idiopathic” means that the cause is unknown. “Thrombocytopenic” means the blood doesn’t have enough platelets. “Purpura” means a person has excessive bruising. You may also hear ITP called “immune thrombocytopenic purpura.”
In people with ITP, all of the blood cells are normal except for the blood platelets. Platelets are the tiny cells that seal minor cuts and wounds and form blood clots. A person with too few platelets bruises easily and bleeds for a long time after being injured. The usual symptoms are bruises and tiny red dots on the skin. Nosebleeds and bleeding gums are also common. When the platelet count is very low, the person with ITP might have nosebleeds that are hard to stop, or might have bleeding in the intestines.
What causes ITP?
The cause of ITP is not known. People with ITP form antibodies that destroy their blood platelets. Normally, antibodies are a healthy response to bacteria or viruses. In people with ITP, however, the antibodies attack the body’s own blood platelets.
How is ITP diagnosed?
Blood tests will confirm that the bruising is caused by ITP and not something more serious.
How is ITP treated in children?
Because most children recover with no treatment, many doctors recommend just watching them carefully and taking care of the bleeding symptoms. However, if the platelet count is extremely low, your child might need a short treatment with intravenous infusions (given in a vein) of gamma globulin or possibly a short course of steroids to increase the platelet count more quickly.