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Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura: 10 Terms to Know

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a rare disorder caused by a low blood platelet count. Because platelets are needed to create effective blood clots, a low count impairs or prolongs the clotting process. Therefore, excessive bruising and bleeding are two common signs of ITP, though it is possible to show no symptoms. Recognizing the medical terminology often used when discussing ITP can help you better understand this condition. Here are 10 terms you need to know. 

  1. Platelet: Cells that help with blood clotting by clumping together are known as platelets. People with ITP lack a normal amount of platelets.  The low platelet count impairs blood clotting. 
  2. Antibodies: ITP is the result of the destruction of platelets by the immune system. Specifically, the immune systems makes antibodies that attach to platelets. The body then destroys these antibody-attached platelets.
  3. Hematomas: The medical term for a blood mass, hematoma, is the collection of blood outside blood vessels and within the surrounding tissue. Hematomas are more commonly known and recognized as a bruise. Spontaneous formation of hematomas can be one symptom of ITP. 
  4. Petechia: A red or purple spot on the skin is known as a petechia, and this is another common symptom of ITP. The visible spot is caused by minor bleeding from broken capillary blood vessels. A singular petechia spot is rare and not a cause of concern. However, a collection of spots (petechiae) that look like a rash is more common and should addressed by a doctor.
  5. Purpura: Purpura is another common symptom of ITP. It is skin rash made up of slightly larger red and purple spots than found with petechiae. Bleeding under the skin leads to the physical appearance of purpura.  
  6. Menorrhagia: A sign and symptom of ITP in women is menorrhagia. This is the medical term for abnormal and prolonged menstrual bleeding. 
  7. Intracerebral hemorrhage: A rare, but serious complication of low platelet count is internal bleeding in the skull or brain. This is known officially as an intracerebral hemorrhage. 
  8. Complete blood count (CBC): A CBC is a diagnostic blood test that is done to count red and white blood cells, as well as platelets.  When testing someone for ITP, a doctor will use a CBC test to specifically look at their platelet count.
  9. Megakaryocytes: These are bone marrow cells that produce blood platelets for clotting.
  10. Bone marrow biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy is a diagnostic test done after a CBC. It is examined to evaluate the production of megakaryocytes.