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Main > Specialty Areas > Hematology >
ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, immune thrombocytopenic purpura)

What is ITP?

In a nutshell, ITP (an abbreviation for "idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura") is a disease that kills platelets. Platelets (thrombocytes) are blood cells, just like red cells and white cells, and they are responsible for blood clotting. If there are not enough platelets, cuts and bruises bleed longer and don't heal as well as they should. Platelets are also involved in storing serotonin, a brain neurotransmitter that is responsible for sleep/wake cycles, appetite and mood regulation. Thus, a decrease in platelet count may affect these functions.

Nobody knows why ITP develops. It is known, however, that ITP is an autoimmune disease, which means that an affected body starts attacking one or more of its organ systems. There are many autoimmune diseases, and ITP is just one of them. ITP triggers the immune system to mark platelets as foreign, and subsequently to destroy them in the spleen or, sometimes in the liver.

ITP is generally not fatal; however, extreme cases may be life-threatening because of a risk of spontaneous hemorrhages, internal bleedings and hard-to-stop bleedings that might be caused by injuries. Also, people with ITP may suffer from depression and fatigue.

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