Heart and Blood Conditions

Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)

What is ITP?

ITP, or immune thrombocytopenic purpura, is a disease that destroys platelets in the blood. Platelets are the blood cells that help form clots to stop bleeding and close up wounds. When the platelet count is low, bleeding too much can be a problem. ITP can also stand for idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. "Idiopathic" means that we do not know what causes it. "Thrombocytopenic" means that there are not enough platelets in the blood. "Purpura" means bruises in the skin. The immune system usually fights germs or infections. If your child has ITP, their immune system instead attacks the body's platelets and destroys them. The platelets are mostly destroyed in the spleen.

ITP in Children

Any child can get ITP. Even though we are not sure what causes it, ITP sometimes happens when children get some kinds of viruses or take some kinds of medicines. It can be more likely in children with certain kinds of immune disorders. Even though ITP can start with a virus, it is not an infection. Your child cannot not catch ITP from someone else. For most children with ITP, it goes away within six months. Platelet count usually goes back to normal in four to six weeks. When ITP lasts longer than 12 months, it is called chronic ITP. Chronic ITP happens in about one in four children with ITP.

ITP at Seattle Children’s

At Seattle Children's Hospital, we offer a full range of services to diagnose and treat this disease. If your child has mild ITP, he may not need treatment.

Most children with ITP do not need treatment. Often it goes away on its own in a span of weeks or months. We focus on helping you understand what's happening with your child's platelets and how to know if a more serious problem is developing. If your child does need treatment, our doctors can provide it.

Read more about our experience and treatment of blood diseases through our Cancer and Blood Disorders Center.