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12th July, 20212 min read

What is thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura?

Medical reviewer:Dr Ann Nainan
Author:Dr Adiele Hoffman
Last reviewed: 13/07/2021
Medically reviewed

All of Healthily's articles undergo medical safety checks to verify that the information is medically safe. View more details in our safety page, or read our editorial policy.

What is thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura?

Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP) is a rare and serious blood condition. It causes lots of small blood clots to form in the blood vessels around your body.

TTP can be caused by your immune system accidentally attacking your own body. This is known as autoimmunity and it can be triggered by some medicines or inherited.

It’s a medical emergency that can be life-threatening, but if it’s picked up quickly it can be treated.

What are the symptoms of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura?

The symptoms of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura usually come on quickly. They often start with flu-like symptoms such as fever or body aches.

You may then develop other symptoms, including:

  • bleeding – e.g. blood in your pee, bleeding gums, nose bleeds or coughing up blood
  • bruises and purple spots on your skin
  • headaches, fits and feeling confused
  • problems seeing as normal
  • chest and tummy pain

If you think you might have TTP, see a doctor as soon as possible.

How is thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura treated?

When you’re unwell with TTP, you’ll need to be treated in hospital. Treatment may include:

  • plasmapheresis – blood is passed through a machine to remove the proteins that trigger TTP (called antibodies)
  • steroids
  • medicines to suppress your immune system – this is used if TTP returns after you’ve had treatment
  • other medicines to help stop your blood clotting

After treatment, most people won’t have another episode. But in about a third of people, the symptoms come back and need to be treated again.

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