Dictionary of Terms

Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura terms


The Adrenal Glands

The Adrenal Glands sit on top of the kidneys and are part of the endocrine system in the body.  The Adrenal Glads are chiefly responsible for releasing hormones in response to stress through the synthesis of corticosteroids such as cortisol and catecholamines such as adrenaline (also known as epinephrine).

Adrenal Suppression

Adrenal Suppression occurs if Prednisone is taken for longer than 7 days, a condition wherein the body is unable to synthesise natural corticosteroids and becomes dependent on the Prednisone taken by the patient.


An antibody is a large Y shaped protein that your immune system uses to identify foreign cells and viruses in your body.  It is a tag that signals to your immune system that this cell needs to be destroyed.



Pronounced ‘Billy-Ruben’.  Bilirubin is a product man by the body as a process of breaking down blood.  Bilirubin is responsible for the yellow brownish colour of bruises as they break down and heal.  Bilirubin is degraded by light, which explains why sunshine helps to heal bruises fast!  Bilirubin levels are checked within regular blood samples and an elevated level of bilirubin in the result may be the result many bodily functions.


The life-maintaining fluid which is made up of plasma, red blood cells (erythrocytes), white blood cells (leukocytes), and platelets; blood circulates throughout the entire body; it carries away waste matter and carbon dioxide, and brings nourishment, electrolytes, hormones, vitamins, antibodies, heat, and oxygen to the tissues.



Corticosteroids are a kind of chemical in the body that includes steroid hormones that are produced in the adrenal cortex.  Corticosteroids is a term used for both the naturally occurring hormones within our bodies and the synthetically manufactured replications of these hormones.  Corticosteroids are involved in a wide range of physiological processes including stress, immune response, regulation of any inflammation, blood electrolyte levels and also behaviour.


 It is one of the main hormones released by the adrenal gland in response to stress. In chemical structure, it is a corticosteroid closely related to cortisol.  Cortisone suppresses the immune system, thus reducing inflammation and attendant pain and swelling at the site of the injury. Risks exist, in particular in the long-term use of cortisone.



The ‘I’ in the acronym ITP used to stand for Idiopathic – Immune is now the correct terminology.  Derived from the greek words idios meaning one’s own and pathos meaning suffering. An idiopathic disease or condition is one whose cause is not known.  This is no longer the case for ITP.

Immune System

The system composed of lymph fluid, lymph nodes, the lymphatic system, white blood cells, and certain organs that are responsible for protecting the body against infection and disease.

Immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)

Is an outdated term for ITP.  Known as a blood disorder characterised by an abnormal decrease in the number of blood platelets, which results in internal bleeding.  Immune thrombocytopenia has replaced idiopathic thrombocytopenia since 2007 as a more accurate terminology and acknowledgement of the role the immune system plays in the disorder.


A state in which the ability of the body’s immune system to respond is decreased. This condition may be present at birth, or it may be caused by certain infections (such as human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV). It may also be caused by certain cancer therapies, such as cancer cell killing (cytotoxic) drugs, radiation, and bone marrow transplantation.

Intravenous gamma globulin (IVgG)

A protein that contains many antibodies and slows destruction of platelets; used in the treatment of ITP and other disorders.



Also known as Romiplostim.  The drug Romiplostim has been developed by Amgen and is marketed under the trade name NPlate.


Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress is essentially an imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to counteract or detoxify their harmful effects through neutralisation by antioxidants.



Petechiae (or Petechial Rash) are tiny, round spots of blood that appear when blood vessels are ruptured and cause the blood to leak out underneath the skin. These red spots may appear brownish or purplish black due to blood oxidation. The petechial rashes are flat in appearance and can can also appear in any parts of the body, even on the palate of the mouth.  Not every ITP patient will experience Petechial rash


Platelets are cells found in the blood that are needed to help the blood to clot in order to control bleeding; often used in the treatment of leukemia and other forms of cancer that cause low platelet counts.

Platelet Aggregation

The clumping together of platelets in the blood. Platelet aggregation is part of the sequence of events leading to the formation of a thrombus (a blood clot).

Platelet Counts

(For Example 150-400 x 109/L)  Platelets are smaller than red and white blood cells.  They are measured in thousands per cubic millimetre of blood.  A normal result may vary anywhere from 150,000 – 400,000 platelets per millimetre (mcL).  A platelet count of 200 K/uL is 200,000 cells.

Prednisone or Prednisolone

Also known as corticosteroids / cortisone / steroids.  Prednisone is a man-made corticosteroids, used to treat inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE/lupus) and other inflammatory and auto immune diseases.  They do not cure the disease.


 (from Latin: purpura, meaning “purple”) is the appearance of red or purple discolorations on the skin that do not blanch on applying pressure.  The ‘P’ in ITP originally stood for Purpura, but it was removed from the acronym in 2007 after it was made apparent that patients with ITP did not always present with Purpura spots when diagnosed.



A treatment available to some ITP patients, depending on the location of the patient. Rituximab is classified as a chemo therapy and many countries have not approved Rituximab as a mainstream treatment for ITP.


Also known as N-Plate.  Romiplostim is a man made protein medicine designed specifically for patients with ITP.  It is used to increase platelet production in the bone marrow by increasing a patients TPO levels.



The spleen is a small organ in your body that is involved in a number of different immune functions.  It acts primarily as a blood filter as well as synthesising antibodies in the blood.  The removal of the spleen was once a very common treatment of ITP, however splenectomies are become less popular as they are not always seen as a long term solution.  It is possible to live healthily without a spleen.


by Meg

Meghan Brewster is a writer and blogger. She is an ITP patient and launched ITP&Me in 2011. She is a coffee lover and a try hard dancer. @meghan_brewster

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