What you need to know about ITP


ITP, which stands for Immune Thrombocytopenia (also Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura), is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the platelets. The next natural question, of course, is likely, “What exactly are platelets, again?” So, let’s start from the beginning.

Blood contains platelets, which are disc-shaped cells that are critical in clotting, which is how we stop bleeding. When an injury occurs, the body sends platelets, which are produced in our bone marrow, to the site of the bleeding to form a clot. In Immune Throbocytopenia (ITP), the immune system attacks platelets (which are also called thrombocytes, hence the name), resulting in a low platelet count.

A rare bleeding disorder, ITP occurs in adults and children, with women being impacted more often than men. There are three types of ITP:

Acute: Most common in children, Acute ITP often occurs after a viral infection. According to the Platelet Disorder Support Association, “Most kids (between 80 to 90 percent) with newly diagnosed ITP suddenly develop bleeding signs and symptoms that fortunately disappear within a few weeks or several months. Recovery from ITP may occur within a few months, whether they initially required drug treatment or not.”

Primary: Also called Idiopathic ITP, these cases have no known direct cause.

Secondary: With Secondary ITP, the diagnosis, “is associated with other illnesses such as an infection or autoimmune disease, or [comes] after transfusion or taking certain drugs, for instance cancer drugs.” 



September is ITP Awareness Month. You can help raise awareness by joining in on Sport Purple for Platelets Day on September 25. The Platelet Disorder Support Association has handouts, images, and other resources on their website.


If you have ITP, your doctor (a hematologist) will advise you on treatment and whether you need to take any precautions such as avoiding contact sports. You can take a proactive step in your healthcare by wearing an ITP medical ID. Knowing you have ITP will help EMTs and other medical personnel know that you are at an increased risk for dangerous bleeding, which may occur as a result of a trauma or may have caused the emergency for which you are being treated. Having access to your diagnosis information may facilitate faster, more accurate treatment in an emergency.

Do you wear an ITP medical ID or a medical ID for another platelet or bleeding disorder? We want to hear from you!

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