Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP), also known as autoimmune thrombocytopenia, is a common condition that doesn't always cause signs and symptoms.
People with ITP have a low number of blood-clotting cells (platelets) in their blood. It happens when the body's germ-fighting immune system starts attacking the platelets.
If the number of platelets in the blood drops very low, signs and symptoms can happen. When they occur, ITP symptoms might signal that the condition is worsening and treatment might be needed.
ITP signs and symptoms include:
- Reddish dots on the skin (petechiae). Minor bleeding from tiny blood vessels (capillaries) in the skin appears as tiny reddish dots, similar to a rash. The petechiae can also be brownish or purplish.
- Larger areas of redness on the skin (purpura). Purplish or reddish splotches, similar to bruises, can form on the skin where there are many petechiae in one area. Purpura can happen inside the mouth, too.
- Easy bruising. You might notice unusually large or severe bruises from minor injuries, such as when you bump your arm against something hard.
- Nosebleeds. Bleeding from your nose can be minor, such as a small amount of blood when you blow your nose. Or it might be severe, such as a nosebleed that won't stop with usual measures, such as applying pressure.
- Bleeding in the mouth. You might notice you bleed more easily from your gums after visiting the dentist.
- Feeling unusually tired. ITP can cause fatigue or a feeling of tiredness that doesn't go away with rest.
- Heavy periods. If you menstruate, you might experience unusually heavy periods.
Many people diagnosed with ITP don't have symptoms at first. Instead, the condition is often found during a blood test done for some other reason.
A normal platelet count for most people is more than 150,000 platelets per microliter of blood. People with ITP have a platelet count below that, but signs and symptoms might not happen until the platelet count falls below 30,000.
If you've been diagnosed with ITP, tell your doctor if you notice any new signs or symptoms. If you experience dangerous bleeding, such as a nosebleed that won't stop, seek emergency medical care.
May 22, 2020
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- George JN, et al. Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) in adults: Clinical manifestations and diagnosis. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed April 25, 2019.
- Goldman L, et al., eds. Thrombocytopenia. In: Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2016. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 25, 2019.