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What is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura?

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Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura is a disorder in which people with unusually low levels of platelets may bruise or bleed easily or excessively, states Mayo Clinic. While the condition affects both children and adults, children usually recover without treatment, while adults tend to suffer chronically.

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While some people who have idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura display no symptoms, those who do have symptoms may suffer from easy or excessive bruising along with spontaneous nosebleeds, bleeding gums, blood in urine or stool, fatigue and unusually heavy menstrual flow, notes Mayo Clinic. Parents should seek medical attention for children who display abnormal bruising or bleeding or who have rashes with very small red spots. Women who suddenly experience a significantly heavier menstrual flow should also seek medical attention.

Doctors do not know what causes idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura as of 2015; however, they have discovered that the immune system malfunctions in people with the condition and begins to attack platelets, according to Mayo Clinic. When antibodies produced by the immune system attach to platelets, the spleen removes the platelets, which aid in blood clotting. Normal platelet counts are usually more than 150,000 per microliter of circulating blood, while those with idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura often have counts that drop below 20,000. Children who develop idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura often do so after experiencing a viral illness, such as measles, and women are twice as likely to have the condition as men.

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