Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura, or TTP, is a rare blood disorder that causes clots to form in small blood vessels throughout the body. It is not cancerous, but it does cause serious health concerns because the clots block blood- and oxygen-flow to the body’s vital organs.

Every person’s disease is different, with individually unique genes and molecules driving that disorder. At the OSUCCC – James, our subspecialists are world-renowned experts who focus solely on blood disorders and who reach across medical disciplines (hematologists,  radiologists, pharmacists and more) to design the very best treatment plan and therapies to target each patient’s disease.

And by offering access to the country’s most advanced clinical trials right here at the OSUCCC – James, patients know that additional options, when needed, are always available for their treatment and care.

What is Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura?

When someone has a cut or wound, the blood normally clots to form a barrier that helps close and heal the injury. Blood will clot when certain cells within the blood, called platelets, gather together to plug a hole in the blood vessel.

Additionally, TTP can cause anemia by lowering the number of red cells in the blood due to the red cells getting ruptured by the clots in the small blood vessels, making patients feel weak, fatigued and dizzy.

Most cases of TTP are caused by a problem with an enzyme, or protein in the blood, called ADAMTS13. The disorder can either be inherited or it can develop during a patient’s lifetime (acquired).

Inherited TTP mainly affects newborns and children, and most patients with inherited TTP begin to have symptoms soon after birth. Some, however, don't have symptoms until they are adults.

Acquired TTP mostly occurs in adults (although it can affect children, too) and is diagnosed more often in women and in African-Americans.

Most TTP cases occur suddenly and require immediate treatment to avoid potentially fatal complications.

The word thrombotic refers to the blood clots that form. Thrombocytopenic refers to a low number of platelets in the blood. Purpura refers to the tiny purple bruises caused by bleeding under the skin.

(Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Types of Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura

No blood disorder is ever routine, and there are different types of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP). The disorder can either be inherited or it can develop during a patient’s lifetime (acquired).

Inherited TTP

Inherited TTP is passed from parents to children through what is called the ADAMTS13 gene.

Inherited TTP mainly affects newborns and children, and most patients with inherited TTP begin to have symptoms soon after birth. Some, however, don't have symptoms until they're adults.

Some parents have no signs or symptoms of the disorder even though they have the faulty gene.

Acquired TTP

Most TTP patients have acquired TTP, which means they develop the disorder when certain diseases or conditions block the ADAMTS13 enzyme from working. Some medications, surgeries and conditions (such as pregnancy or some cancers) can cause acquired TTP.

Acquired TTP mostly occurs in adults (although it can affect children, too) and is diagnosed more often in women and in African-Americans.

(Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura Symptoms

Blood clots, a low platelet count and damaged red blood cells cause the symptoms of thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (TTP).

These symptoms include:

  • Purplish bruises, called purpura, just under the skin or on mucous membranes (like those in the mouth). These bruises are caused by bleeding under the skin.
  • Pinpoint-sized red or purple dots on the skin. These dots, called petechiae, are often found in groups and may look like a rash.
  • Paleness or jaundice (a yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Fatigue (feeling very tired and weak)
  • Fever
  • A fast heart rate or shortness of breath
  • Headache, speech changes, confusion, coma, stroke or seizure
  • A low amount of urine
  • A protein or blood in the urine

(Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)

Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have TTP. But if you have symptoms, you should tell your doctor, especially if symptoms are severe or have continued for longer than a few weeks.


If you’ve been diagnosed with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, would like a second opinion or would like to speak with a blood disorder specialist, please call The James Line at 800-293-5066 or 614-293-5066 to make an appointment.

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