Idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) is an autoimmune disorder, occurring predominantly in women. We studied by flow cytofluorimetry the T cell subsets in men and women with ITP and compared them with healthy sex-matched volunteers. In healthy controls, women were found to have higher proportions of T helper/inducer (Th/i) and lower T suppressor/cytotoxic (Ts/c) lymphocytes and consequently higher Th/i:Ts/c ratios than men. Accordingly, in clinical surveys, patients and controls should be matched for sex for proper comparisons. In patients with ITP in its active phase, an imbalance in T cell subsets was found in both sexes. The perturbation was more severe in women who had a marked decrease in number and proportion of Th/i lymphocytes and an increase in the proportion of Ts/c lymphocytes, whereas in men only, the proportion of Th/i lymphocytes was decreased. When patients with active disease were compared to those with ITP in remission, the decrease in Th/i subsets still persisted in both sexes but the Ts/c subset in women had returned to normal proportions. Therefore, the immune imbalance in ITP is more marked in women than men; imbalances in both Th/i and Ts/c are present in women while Ts/c appears not to be involved in men.

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