September is National ITP Awareness Month
Platelets are relatively small, irregularly shaped components of our blood. They are required to support the integrity of our blood vessel walls and for blood to clot. Without enough platelets, a person is subject to spontaneous bleeding or bruising.
Immune thrombocytopenia (ITP) is an autoimmune disease in which the body mounts an immune attack toward platelets. The platelets are marked as “foreign” by the immune system and eliminated in the spleen and sometimes, the liver. Some people with ITP also have impaired platelet production. People with ITP often have bruises or small purple spots on their skin where their blood has escaped from their veins or capillaries. Spontaneous bleeding can also occur in mucous membranes inside the mouth or in the gastrointestinal tract. ITP is often accompanied by fatigue and sometimes depression.
Chronic ITP and platelet function disorders are perhaps the most common bleeding disorder. It affects both sexes and all ages and races. While we don’t know for sure, there are an estimated 120,000 persons with ITP in the United States. That’s more than 10 times the number of people with Hemophilia!
The purpose of ITP awareness month is to increase the public’s awareness and understanding of ITP and to let patients and families know that there are resources and support available to help them have the best possible outcomes. Patients and families are not alone.