Skip to content

Information and Resources

Font Size
A
A
A

Thrombocytopenia and ITP

What Is Thrombocytopenia and ITP?

If you have thrombocytopenia, you don't have enough platelets in your blood. Platelets help your blood clot, which stops bleeding.

For most people, it's not a big problem. But if you have a severe form, you can bleed too much when you're injured, or spontaneously in your eyes, gums, or bladder.

Recommended Related to

My WebMD: Living a Normal Life With Sickle Cell Anemia

My parents first knew something was wrong with me when I was 3 months old. I was constantly in pain, constantly crying. They thought I had rheumatic fever or polio. The townspeople would come over and sit by my bed and pray. After seeing local doctors, I was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when I was 6. It's a disease that makes your red blood cells grow in a crescent shape, which means they can block blood vessels and stop oxygen from getting to the cells. That causes pain and anemia and can...

Read the My WebMD: Living a Normal Life With Sickle Cell Anemia article > >

A healthy person usually has a platelet count of 150,000 to 400,000. You have thrombocytopenia if your number falls under 150,000.

If you're wondering what the long name means, here's how it breaks down: "thrombocytes" are your platelets and "penia" means you don't have enough of something. Put those terms together, and you get "thrombocytopenia."

Your doctor may tell you that you have a form of the condition called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP). "Idiopathic" means the cause isn't known. "Purpura" refers to bruising, which is one of the symptoms.

Causes

Although doctors don't know what causes ITP, they know that it happens when your immune system -- your body's defense against disease -- doesn't work right. Your antibodies, which are supposed to attack infections, instead mistakenly destroy your blood platelets.

Thrombocytopenia can run in families, but you can also get it from some drugs and many medical conditions. For instance, your body might make fewer platelets if you have:

  • Viral infections, including chickenpox, parvovirus, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr, mononucleosis, or HIV
  • Severe bacterial infection in your blood
  • Blood cancer such as leukemia or lymphoma
  • A problem with your bone marrow
  • Rare disorder called hemolytic uremic syndrome
  • Miliary tuberculosis (miliary TB)
  • Vitamin B12 or folate (vitamin B9) deficiency

You could also get thrombocytopenia if you're taking chemotherapy drugs or you're getting radiation treatment on your bone marrow. Drinking a lot of alcohol can also bring on the condition.

Thrombocytopenia can also happen if your spleen is enlarged, which can trap platelets so they won't move through your body.

In other cases, your body just uses too many platelets, leaving you without enough of them. That can happen if you have an autoimmune disease, like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. The same is true if you have thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP), which uses a lot of platelets to make small blood clots throughout your body.

Your blood platelets can also be destroyed because of:

  • Preeclampsia, a condition some pregnant women get
  • Heart bypass surgery
  • Medication side effects, including drugs for heart problems, seizures, and infections

 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

man rubbing painful knee
Causes, warning signs.
feet
Solutions for 19 types.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
Live and thrive.
couple kissing
What do you know about locking lips?
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
woman standing behind curtains
How it affects you.
brain scan with soda
Tips to avoid complications.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
man with problem
Symptoms, causes, treatments.
woman dreaming
What Do Your Dreams Say About You?
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.

Thanks!

Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.