What Is The Difference Between Itp And Ttp

ITP (Immune Thrombocytopenia) and TTP (Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura) are two distinct blood disorders that, despite their similarities, have different underlying causes and treatments. Both conditions affect platelet counts and can lead to severe complications if not properly managed. Understanding the differences between these two disorders is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment.

ITP is characterized by a low platelet count due to the immune system mistakenly attacking and destroying platelets. On the other hand, TTP involves the formation of small blood clots throughout the body, which can lead to a reduction in platelets, red blood cells, and other serious health issues. Recognizing these fundamental differences is essential for healthcare providers and patients alike to ensure proper care and management.

Both ITP and TTP present unique challenges and require specific approaches to treatment. ITP is generally managed with medications that suppress the immune system, while TTP often requires more intensive therapies such as plasma exchange. This article delves into the nuances of ITP and TTP, highlighting the key differences in their causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment options.


What is ITP?

Immune Thrombocytopenia (ITP) is an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its own platelets. Platelets are essential for blood clotting and preventing excessive bleeding. In ITP, the platelet count drops significantly, increasing the risk of bruising and bleeding.

What is TTP?

Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (TTP) is a rare but serious blood disorder. It involves the formation of tiny blood clots throughout the body. These clots can block blood flow to vital organs, leading to serious health complications. Unlike ITP, TTP affects multiple aspects of the blood, including platelets, red blood cells, and the endothelial cells lining the blood vessels.


Causes of ITP

ITP is primarily caused by an abnormal immune response. The exact cause of this response is often unknown, but several factors can trigger it:

  • Infections: Viral infections like hepatitis, HIV, or H. pylori can stimulate the immune system to attack platelets.
  • Medications: Certain drugs, such as quinine, antibiotics, and anticonvulsants, can lead to ITP.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis can increase the risk of developing ITP.
  • Genetic Factors: A family history of autoimmune diseases can also play a role.

Causes of TTP

TTP is caused by a deficiency or dysfunction of the ADAMTS13 enzyme. This enzyme normally breaks down large von Willebrand factor (vWF) molecules that promote blood clotting. Without sufficient ADAMTS13, these large vWF molecules cause excessive clotting. Factors that can lead to TTP include:

  • Genetic Mutations: Inherited TTP, known as Upshaw-Schulman syndrome, is due to genetic mutations affecting ADAMTS13.
  • Autoimmune Response: Acquired TTP is often the result of the immune system creating antibodies that inhibit ADAMTS13.
  • Medical Conditions: Conditions like cancer, pregnancy, and bone marrow transplantation can trigger TTP.
  • Medications: Certain drugs, such as ticlopidine and clopidogrel, can induce TTP.
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Symptoms of ITP

The symptoms of ITP are primarily related to low platelet counts and may include:

  • Easy bruising: Small purple or red spots on the skin (petechiae).
  • Bleeding: Prolonged bleeding from cuts, spontaneous nosebleeds, or bleeding gums.
  • Heavy menstrual periods: Women with ITP may experience menorrhagia.
  • Fatigue: Due to the body’s increased effort to stop bleeding.
  • Hematuria: Blood in the urine.
  • Hematemesis: Vomiting blood.

Symptoms of TTP

TTP has a broader range of symptoms due to its impact on multiple blood components and organs:

  • Neurological symptoms: Confusion, headaches, seizures, and even strokes.
  • Kidney dysfunction: Reduced urine output and elevated creatinine levels.
  • Fever: Often accompanies the acute phase of TTP.
  • Severe anemia: Fatigue, pallor, and shortness of breath due to the destruction of red blood cells.
  • Petechiae and purpura: Similar to ITP, small red or purple spots on the skin.


How ITP is Diagnosed

Diagnosing ITP involves several steps to rule out other causes of low platelet counts:

  1. Medical history: Evaluation of symptoms and family history of autoimmune diseases.
  2. Physical examination: Checking for signs of bruising and bleeding.
  3. Blood tests: Complete blood count (CBC) showing low platelet count.
  4. Bone marrow biopsy: May be performed to rule out other bone marrow disorders.

How TTP is Diagnosed

TTP diagnosis requires a thorough evaluation due to its complexity:

  1. Clinical assessment: Examination of neurological symptoms, kidney function, and overall health.
  2. Blood tests: CBC showing low platelet count, presence of schistocytes (fragmented red blood cells), elevated lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) levels, and low haptoglobin.
  3. ADAMTS13 activity test: Measures the enzyme’s activity. Low levels indicate TTP.
  4. Imaging: Sometimes used to assess organ damage.


Treatment Options for ITP

Treatment for ITP aims to increase platelet count and reduce the risk of bleeding:

  • Medications:
    • Corticosteroids: Such as prednisone to suppress the immune system.
    • IVIG (Intravenous Immunoglobulin): Temporarily boosts platelet count.
    • Rituximab: An immunosuppressive drug.
  • Splenectomy: Surgical removal of the spleen may be considered if medications are ineffective.
  • Platelet transfusions: In severe cases, to temporarily increase platelet count.
  • Thrombopoietin receptor agonists: Drugs like eltrombopag and romiplostim to stimulate platelet production.

Treatment Options for TTP

TTP treatment is more intensive and aims to restore normal blood flow and prevent organ damage:

  • Plasma exchange (plasmapheresis): Removes the patient’s plasma and replaces it with donor plasma to replenish ADAMTS13 and remove antibodies.
  • Corticosteroids: To reduce immune system activity.
  • Rituximab: Often used in acquired TTP to suppress antibody production.
  • Caplacizumab: A newer drug that inhibits vWF and is used in combination with plasma exchange.
  • Supportive care: Includes blood transfusions, dialysis for kidney failure, and other measures to manage complications.
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Prognosis for ITP Patients

The prognosis for ITP patients varies based on age, response to treatment, and underlying health conditions. Generally, children have a better prognosis than adults.

  • Children: Many children with ITP recover without treatment within six months. In some cases, ITP becomes chronic, but long-term outcomes remain positive with proper management.
  • Adults: Adults with ITP often face a chronic course. Treatment can manage symptoms and improve quality of life. However, some patients may experience persistent low platelet counts despite therapy.

Prognosis for TTP Patients

The prognosis for TTP patients has improved significantly with the advent of plasma exchange therapy. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial.

  • Acute Phase: With prompt plasma exchange, the survival rate exceeds 90%. Relapses can occur but are often less severe and more manageable.
  • Long-term Outlook: Some patients may experience long-term complications such as kidney damage or neurological issues. Regular follow-up care is essential to monitor and manage these potential problems.

Risk Factors

Risk Factors Associated with ITP

Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of developing ITP:

  • Age: ITP can occur at any age but is more common in young children and adults over 60.
  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop ITP than men, particularly during their childbearing years.
  • Infections: Recent viral infections can trigger ITP.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: Conditions like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis increase the risk.
  • Medications: Certain drugs can induce ITP as a side effect.

Risk Factors Associated with TTP

TTP is less common than ITP, but several risk factors are known:

  • Genetic Predisposition: Family history of TTP can increase risk, particularly for inherited forms.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Conditions like lupus can contribute to acquired TTP.
  • Medications: Drugs such as ticlopidine, clopidogrel, and certain chemotherapy agents can induce TTP.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women are at higher risk, particularly in the third trimester and postpartum period.
  • Other Medical Conditions: Cancer, bone marrow transplantation, and HIV can increase the risk of TTP.


Complications Arising from ITP

ITP can lead to various complications, particularly if left untreated:

  • Severe Bleeding: Low platelet counts increase the risk of severe bleeding, including gastrointestinal bleeding and intracranial hemorrhage.
  • Anemia: Chronic blood loss can lead to anemia, causing fatigue and weakness.
  • Treatment Side Effects: Long-term use of corticosteroids and immunosuppressants can cause side effects such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and increased infection risk.

Complications Arising from TTP

TTP can cause serious complications due to its systemic nature:

  • Organ Damage: Blood clots can block blood flow to organs, causing damage to the kidneys, heart, and brain.
  • Neurological Issues: Patients may experience seizures, stroke, or cognitive impairments due to reduced blood flow to the brain.
  • Relapses: TTP can recur, requiring ongoing monitoring and treatment.
  • Treatment Risks: Plasma exchange and immunosuppressive therapies carry risks, including infection and allergic reactions.

Differences Summary

Key Differences in Causes

  • ITP: Primarily caused by an autoimmune response targeting platelets.
  • TTP: Caused by a deficiency or dysfunction of the ADAMTS13 enzyme, leading to abnormal clotting.

Key Differences in Symptoms

  • ITP: Symptoms include easy bruising, bleeding, and petechiae.
  • TTP: Symptoms are more severe and include neurological changes, kidney dysfunction, fever, and severe anemia.
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Key Differences in Diagnosis

  • ITP: Diagnosed through blood tests showing low platelet counts and ruling out other causes.
  • TTP: Diagnosed through blood tests showing low platelet counts, presence of schistocytes, and low ADAMTS13 activity.

Key Differences in Treatment

  • ITP: Treated with corticosteroids, IVIG, rituximab, splenectomy, and platelet transfusions.
  • TTP: Treated with plasma exchange, corticosteroids, rituximab, caplacizumab, and supportive care.

Key Differences in Prognosis

  • ITP: Children often recover spontaneously; adults may have chronic disease but manageable with treatment.
  • TTP: Prognosis improved with plasma exchange; long-term monitoring required for potential relapses and complications.

Case Studies

Case Study of an ITP Patient

Patient: Sarah, a 32-year-old woman.

Background: Sarah presented with frequent bruising and prolonged bleeding from minor cuts. She had no significant medical history and had recently recovered from a viral infection.


  • Blood tests revealed a platelet count of 20,000/µL (normal range: 150,000-450,000/µL).
  • Other blood parameters were normal, and no underlying causes were identified.
  • A bone marrow biopsy confirmed increased megakaryocytes, indicative of ITP.


  • Sarah was started on prednisone (a corticosteroid) to suppress her immune system.
  • She also received an infusion of IVIG to boost her platelet count temporarily.


  • Sarah’s platelet count improved to 100,000/µL within two weeks.
  • Prednisone dosage was gradually reduced over the next few months.
  • After six months, Sarah’s platelet count stabilized, and she did not require further treatment.

Case Study of a TTP Patient

Patient: John, a 45-year-old man.

Background: John was admitted to the emergency room with confusion, fever, and dark urine. He had a history of high blood pressure but was otherwise healthy.


  • Blood tests showed a platelet count of 30,000/µL, hemolytic anemia, and elevated LDH levels.
  • Schistocytes were present in a blood smear, indicating red blood cell fragmentation.
  • ADAMTS13 activity was found to be <10%, confirming TTP.


  • John was immediately started on plasma exchange therapy to remove the large vWF molecules and replenish ADAMTS13.
  • He was also given methylprednisolone (a corticosteroid) to suppress antibody production.
  • Rituximab was administered to further reduce the immune response against ADAMTS13.


  • John’s symptoms improved significantly after three days of plasma exchange.
  • His platelet count normalized within a week, and his neurological symptoms resolved.
  • After one month, John was discharged from the hospital with regular follow-ups to monitor his condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main differences between ITP and TTP?

The main differences between ITP and TTP lie in their causes and treatment. ITP is an autoimmune disorder where the body destroys its platelets, while TTP involves abnormal blood clotting that reduces platelet count and damages organs. Treatment for ITP typically includes immunosuppressants, whereas TTP requires plasma exchange and other intensive therapies.

How are ITP and TTP diagnosed?

ITP is diagnosed through blood tests that show low platelet counts and rule out other causes. TTP diagnosis involves a combination of blood tests, including the presence of schistocytes on a blood smear, and clinical symptoms. Both conditions require careful medical evaluation for accurate diagnosis.

Can ITP and TTP be cured?

ITP can often be managed with medication, but some patients may achieve remission. TTP, while serious, can be treated successfully with plasma exchange and immunosuppressive therapy, leading to remission in many cases. Continuous monitoring is essential for both conditions.

What are the common symptoms of ITP and TTP?

ITP symptoms include easy bruising, bleeding gums, and petechiae (small red spots on the skin). TTP symptoms are more severe and include neurological changes, kidney dysfunction, fever, and severe anemia, along with low platelet counts.


In summary, while ITP and TTP both involve low platelet counts, their causes, symptoms, and treatments differ significantly. ITP is primarily an autoimmune disorder, whereas TTP involves abnormal blood clotting. Accurate diagnosis and tailored treatments are crucial for managing these conditions effectively.

Both ITP and TTP require ongoing medical care and monitoring to prevent complications and improve patient outcomes. Understanding these disorders in depth helps patients and healthcare providers make informed decisions, ensuring better management and quality of life for those affected.

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