Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

What Is Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP)?

TTP is a rare blood condition characterized by the formation of small clots within the circulation.  This results in the destruction of platelets and results in a low platelet count.  Platelets are the blood cells that help to clot our blood when we are bleeding.  Because the platelet count is low, these people are at risk for bleeding.  Most patients also become anemic as a result of the TTP.  Red blood cells are destroyed faster than the body can make new ones.

What Causes TTP?

Many times the cause of TTP is not known.  Sometimes it is associated with drugs the person is taking, an infection, bone marrow transplant, or pregnancy.

What Are The Symptoms Of TTP?

Symptoms may be subtle and include fatigue, fever, headache, and diarrhea.  As the condition progresses and clots form within blood vessels, platelets are consumed.  Bruising and bleeding from the mouth or gums may occur.  Clots that form can disrupt the circulation.  Patients may have high blood pressure, headaches, confusion, difficulty speaking and numbness.  If anemia develops, symptoms may include fatigue, shortness of breath and heart palpitations.

How Is The Diagnosis Of TTP Made?

Other diseases must first be excluded.  Blood tests are commonly done.

How Is TTP Treated?

Plasma exchange is the most common treatment for TTP.  Plasma exchange involves removal of the patient’s plasma and replacing it with donor plasma.  This process removes the antibody in the patient’s blood that is causing the problems. Plasma exchange is repeated daily for several days.

Steroids, red blood cell and platelet transfusions, as well as folic acid may also be a part of the treatment.  In some cases, removal of the spleen or chemotherapy is necessary to control the disease.

Can TTP Be Cured?

About 80% of patients will survive.  The majority of patients will have only one episode of TTP; few will have relapses.

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