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What is Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura?

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  • Written By: Daniel Liden
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is a medical condition in which, for no known reason, the blood does not clot as it is supposed to. The failure of blood to clot properly is a result of a low number of blood platelets. Platelets are blood cells that circulate in mammals and are responsible for blood clotting. If one does not possess enough platelets, clotting will not occur or will be delayed. Failure of blood to clot can result in excessive bleeding, leading Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura to be called a bleeding disorder.

Idiopathic is a term used in medicine to describe a condition that exists with no known explanation or cause. Thrombocytopenic describes the condition of having a lower-than-normal platelet count in the blood. Purpura are bruises, often purple in color, that arise from bleeding beneath the skin. ITP, then, is described as a low platelet count with no visible cause. The primary visible symptom of ITP is usually purple bruises on the skin, revealing that bleeding has occurred in small blood vessels beneath the skin.

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Most people have between 150,000 and 400,000 platelets per cubic millimeter (mm3) of blood. Anything below that can technically be considered idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, though there is no set number for diagnosis of the disorder. About half of reported cases of ITP are in children, and the cases are generally acute, lasting six months or fewer. Most cases in adults, on the other hand, are generally chronic and last longer than ITP in children. ITP appears in women two to three times more often than in appears in men.

Purple bruises, especially on the extremities, are the most common symptom of idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. Bleeding from the gums and nostrils is another common symptom, and occurs when platelet counts are below 20,000 per mm3. In cases with extremely low platelet counts, hematomas, or masses of blood outside of vessels, can appear in the mouth or on other mucous membranes.

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is usually not fatal or even extremely dangerous. There are a variety of treatments available to cases whose platelet counts are below 50,000 per mm3. administration of steroids or removal of the spleen are two such treatment options. generally, there is no need to treat those whose platelet counts are above 50,000 per mm3. Major health risks for those with low platelet counts are internal bleeding and bleeding, internal or external, caused by trauma or other major wounds.

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