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Immune Thrombocytopenia


Immune thrombocytopenia

is a bleeding disorder. Immune thrombocytopenia may happen when your immune system attacks and destroys your platelets. This causes low platelet levels. Platelets are cells that help the blood clot (stop bleeding). When platelet levels are low, bleeding may occur anywhere in your body. Immune thrombocytopenia may also be called idiopathic thrombocytopenia.

Common signs and symptoms include the following:

Your signs and symptoms will depend on your platelet levels. You may have no symptoms if your platelet levels are normal. You may have any of the following:

  • Bruising or tiny red or purple spots (purpura) on the skin or mucus membranes
  • Bleeding from your gums or nose
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding in women
  • Blood in your urine or bowel movements

Call 911 or have someone else call for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest that lasts longer than 5 minutes or returns
    • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
    • Trouble breathing
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat, especially with chest pain or trouble breathing
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You fall and hit your head.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You cannot be woken.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You have bleeding that does not stop or becomes heavier.
  • You have a bruise that suddenly gets larger.
  • You vomit blood or material that looks like coffee grounds.
  • Your arm or leg feels looks bigger than normal and is warm or painful.
  • You suddenly feel lightheaded, dizzy, or weak.
  • You become confused or have trouble thinking clearly.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have bleeding from your gums, mouth, or nose.
  • You have irregular or heavy menstrual bleeding.
  • You have blood in your urine or bowel movement.
  • You have abdominal pain.
  • You see new bruises or small red or purple spots on your skin.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Treatment for immune thrombocytopenia

will depend on your platelet levels and symptoms. You may not need treatment if you have normal platelet levels or no symptoms. You may need medicine to prevent your immune system from destroying platelets. Medicine may also be needed to help increase platelet production and prevent bleeding. You will need platelet transfusions if your platelet levels are low or you have heavy bleeding. You may need surgery to remove your spleen if other treatments do not work.


  • Care for your skin. Use a soft toothbrush to keep your skin and gums from bleeding. Use lip balm to prevent your lips from cracking. Use a soft washcloth during baths or showers. Apply lotion to dry skin. Do not cut your nails too short. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Wear slippers or shoes to protect your feet.
  • Do not do activities that may cause injury. Ask your healthcare provider what activities are safe to do. You may not be able to play contact sports such as football, hockey, or wrestling.
  • Do not take aspirin or NSAIDs. These medicines can lower platelet levels. This may cause you to bleed and bruise more easily.
  • Care for cuts, scrapes, or nosebleeds. Apply firm, steady, pressure to cuts or scrapes. Use gauze or a clean towel. If possible, elevate the body part above the level of your heart. If your nose bleeds, pinch the top of your nose and your nostrils. Do this until bleeding stops.
  • Carry medical alert identification. Wear jewelry or carry a card that says you have thrombocytopenia. Ask your healthcare provider where to get these items.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

You will need to return for blood tests to check your platelet levels. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.