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Press Information about ITP
What does ITP stand for?
Immune Thrombocytopenia. ITP is an autoimmune disorder (Immune) causing a shortage of small cells in the blood known as platelets (Thrombocytopenia). ITP was formerly known as Idiopathic (of unknown origin) Thrombocytopenic Purpura (bruising) .
What is ITP ?
A rare disorder in which the body’s immune system destroys platelets in the blood. A normal platelet count is between 150- 400 (UK measurement). People with ITP can have a platelet count under 5.
What causes ITP?
For most people there is no known cause, but for others, particularly children, it can follow a simple viral infection such as a cold or sore throat. It has a slightly higher incidence in pregnancy and can also arise whilst taking some medications or following vaccinations. ITP can occur as a secondary condition to certain other illnesses.
Does it get worse over time?
No, unlike autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis it is not a progressive disease, but the risk of bleeding is present from the day the disease develops. ITP can go into temporary or permanent remission.
Who develops ITP ?
This condition can arise in anyone at any age, but acute ITP (less than three months duration) is more common in children, and persistent ITP (lasting up to 1 year) and chronic ITP (often lasting for years or lifelong) is more common in adults.
How rare is ITP ?
There are only 3000 – 4000 ITP patients in the UK at any one time. Most general hospitals will only be seeing one or two adults and children with ITP.
How serious is the risk of bleeding?
At present doctors are unable to predict who will have an episode of serious bleeding. Many people with ITP have few problems, whilst others have a more difficult condition which may need aggressive treatment. People with a count over 50 are much less likely to have severe symptoms than those whose count is in single figures. It is extremely rare for ITP to cause a fatal haemorrhage.
What is the treatment ?
Treatments, which are currently aimed at suppressing or confusing the immune system, all have their dangers and drawbacks, only temporarily raise the platelet count, but do not cure the disease.
What is the difference between ITP and hæmophilia?
Hæmophilia is inherited and permanent, ITP is not inherited, and platelet counts can return to normal. Hæmophilia patients are deficient in one of the 12 factors which act together to form a blood clot. ITP patients are short of platelets which work independently as the initial plug to stop blood leakage. In hæmophilia the patient is usually treated by replacement therapy. In ITP platelet infusions are only used in emergencies as transfused platelets, like the patient’s own platelets, are destroyed by their immune system in a matter of hours.
Is ITP contagious?
No it is not caught and can not be passed on.
Why is research into ITP necessary?
The ITP Support Association is funding clinical and data research to try to discover the possible causes of ITP, understand who is at risk of developing it, to predict the course of the disease, ascertain its most effective treatments and to find a cure.