ITP: Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura
What is ITP?
Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
is a bleeding disorder. People with ITP can
bruise or bleed more easily than normal.
ITP is a disease of the blood in which the
body’s immune system attacks its own
platelets for unknown reasons. The immune
system attacks platelets by making proteins
(antibodies) which attach to these platelets.
They are then removed from the body by the
spleen. Normally, when you cut yourself,
your platelets rush to this wound and form a
clot to stop the bleeding. People with ITP
have fewer platelets to form a clot. This
causes you to bleed easier.
Types of ITP
There are two types of ITP: acute (short-
term) and chronic (long-term)
Acute ITP most often lasts less than
6 months. It occurs mainly in
children after a viral illness. This
form of ITP often goes away within
a few weeks or months and may not
require any treatment.
Chronic ITP may last 6 months or
longer, and it is the type of ITP that
most commonly affects adults.
Chronic ITP is 3 times more
common in women than men.
Treatment depends on bleeding
symptoms and your platelet count.
Mild cases without bleeding
symptoms may not require treatment.
Symptoms of ITP
When you have ITP, you may notice some
of these symptoms.
Tiny, red or purple spots on the skin
or lining of your mouth (petechiae).
These are caused by bleeding from
small blood vessels under the skin.
Painless, dime-sized bruises on the
skin or in the mouth (purpura)
Heavy menstrual bleeding in women
Blood in the urine or stool
Bleeding in the brain. This is rare
Treatment for ITP
Children: ITP often goes away on
its own within 6 months. Children
do not need treatment unless they
have a lot of bleeding or a very low
platelet count. Milder cases may
only need monitoring of symptoms
and blood work to check platelet
Adults: ITP tends to remain in
adults, although the severity comes
and goes. Medicines and frequent
blood work are often needed.
Medicines Used to Treat ITP
Steroids such as prednisone. They
help raise the platelet count in the
blood by slowing the activity of the
immune system. This medicine is
given by mouth.
Immune globulin – given
Anti-(Rh) D immunoglobulin –
Rituxan® (Rituximab) – given
Nplate® (Romiplostim) – given
Promacta® (Eltrombopag)– tablet
given by mouth
Other drugs that slow the activity of
the immune system may also be
Surgery: If the medicines do not work,
your doctor may remove your spleen. Since
the platelets get trapped in the spleen,
removing it helps to stop the breakdown. If
you have your spleen removed, you may be
more likely to get infections. Watch for
signs of infection such as fever. Get
Platelet transfusions may be needed by
people who have severe bleeding.
Caring for Yourself at Home
Talk with your doctor or nurse about what
activities are safe for you. Also talk about
when it is OK for you to return to work.
Avoid contact sports. Avoid injury that
could cause bruising or bleeding. Be careful
to avoid medicines such as aspirin and
ibuprofen. They can lower platelet counts
and cause bleeding. Be sure to tell your
doctor about all medicines that you are
taking, including supplements and over-the-
Be aware of the symptoms described above.
If you notice any of them, be sure to call
your doctor. If you have further questions
or concerns, call:
Hematology Clinic (608) 265-1700
If you live out of the area, call
1-800-323-8942 and ask for the Hematology
Clinic at extension 5-1700.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 5/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4787