What Is Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)?

ITP is a blood disorder characterized by an abnormal decrease in the number of platelets in the blood. Platelets are cells in the blood that help stop bleeding. A decrease in platelets can result in easy bruising, bleeding gums, and internal bleeding. The older name that is still sometimes seen is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura.

  • Idiopathic means the cause is unknown.
  • Thrombocytopenia means a decreased number of platelets in the blood.
  • Purpura refers to the purple discoloring of the skin, as with a bruise.

The new name that is coming into use is immune thrombocytopenic purpura. The word immune more accurately describes that ITP is an immunologic disease where the body destroys its own platelets.

Preventing bleeding

The parents of a child with the disorder need to be aware of how to prevent injuries and bleeding. Consider the following:

  • For the young child, make the environment as safe as possible. Padding a crib, wearing helmets, and providing protective clothing are necessary when platelet counts are low.
  • Contact sports, riding bicycles, and rough play may need to be restricted.
  • Avoid medications which contain aspirin, as they may interfere with the body's ability to control bleeding.

It is important to discuss with your child's doctor other limitations necessary to prevent injuries in a child with ITP.

Long-term outlook for ITP

Although there is no known cause of ITP and there is no cure, the prognosis for a child with ITP is very good.

Usually, the body stops making the antibodies that are attacking the platelets and the disorder resolves on its own. The goal of treatment is to keep the child's platelets in a safe range until the body corrects the problem.

Overall, prevention of serious bleeding, such as head injuries, is the most significant factor in prognosis. Providing a safe environment, prompt medical attention, and continued medical care are all necessary for a long-term, healthy prognosis.

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