Most cases of ITP in adults are persistent, lasting more than six months, or chronic, lasting more than a year.1 A very small number of people die from the disease or the treatments and some people recover.
It is difficult to determine how many adults have ITP, so estimates vary. The latest review study reports that the incidence of adult ITP (how many people get diagnosed each year) is 3.3 per 100,000 adults/year.3 The prevalence (how many adults have ITP at any time) is approximately 9.5 cases per 100,000. More women than men have the disease in the 30 to 60 age group. In other age groups, about the same number of men and women are diagnosed with ITP.2
Since ITP is a diagnosis of exclusion, it is very important that all other causes of low platelets are ruled out. There are many low platelet diseases and the treatments differ. An ITP patient can help the doctor eliminate other causes for ITP by mentioning any new medications, frequent consumption of tonic water, exposure to toxins, or events that coincide with the discovery of low platelets.
There are various approaches to treating ITP depending on the platelet count, bleeding symptoms, patient preference, age, lifestyle considerations and other health issues. It is important for both the patient and physician to carefully weigh the potential risks along with the potential benefits when making a treatment decision. Treatments should be tailored to the individual, not based on a platelet count.
1. Rodeghiero F, Stasi R, Gernsheimer T, et al. "Standardization of terminology, definitions and outcome criteria in immune thrombocytopenic purpura of adults and children: report from an international working group." Blood.2009;113(11):2386-2393. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19005182
2. Segal JB, Powe NR. "Prevalence of immune thrombocytopenia: analyses of administrative data." J Thromb Haemost. 2006;4(11):2377-2383. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16869934
3. Terrell DR, et al. "The incidence of immune thrombocytopenic purpura in children and adults: A critical review of published reports." Am J Hematol. 2010 Mar;85(3):174-80. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20131303