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Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura

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Photo of Skin Rash in ITP Courtesy Wikipedia.

Photo of Skin Rash in ITP Courtesy Wikipedia.

What Is Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura?

Immune thrombocytopenia purpura (ITP), formerly called idiopathic, is an immune mediated bleeding disorder characterized by destruction of circulating platelets (thrombocytes) by autoantibodies in the presence of normal bone marrow and without other conditions that cause bleeding problems including many medications.

Q: How do autoantibodies destroy platelets?

A: Autoantibodies bind to normal platelet surface antigens (targets) which forms a complex that is cleared from blood by the reticuloendothelial system. Consequently, this condition results in an abnormal decrease in the number of platelets circulating in blood plasma.

Platelets are cells that are needed to stop bleeding. A normal platelet count is in the range of 150,000 to 450,000. With ITP, the platelet count is less than 100,000. By the time significant bleeding occurs, the patient may have a platelet count of less than 10,000. The lower the platelet count, the greater the risk of bleeding. 

Because of inability of blood to properly clot due to lack of sufficient platelets, a distinctive purplish rash develops under the skin from blood leakage and an appearance of many small red spots of varying size can cover the skin. Depending on the number of platelets, there may be minimal to extensive bleeding in various parts of the body.  Bleeding in the brain is the worst complication, causing death in approximately 1% of affected children and 5% of affected adults.

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura is common in childhood, on average 50 cases per 1,000,000 per year with same incidence in boys as girls. It may follow a viral infection or immunization and is caused by an inappropriate response of the immune system to cross react against the body’s platelets.1

The incidence of immune thrombocytopenic purpura in adults is approximately 66 cases per 1,000,000 per year.  Older persons and persons with a previous history of hemorrhage are at increased risk of severe bleeding in adult ITP.  

Spontaneous remission occurs in most children (80%).  Remission in adults usually requires treatment. 

What Is Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura In Celiac Disease and/or Gluten Sensitivity?


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  1. Dogan M, Sal E, Akbayram S, Peker E, Cesur Y, Oner AF. Concurrent celiac disease, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and autoimmune thyroiditis. Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2011 Nov-Dec;17(6):E13-6. doi: 10.1177/1076029610378502. Epub 2010 Aug 3. []