White blood cells (WBCs), usually referred to as leukocytes, are one of the several blood cell types that make up your blood.
Leukopenia: What Is It?
WBCs play a significant role in your immune system. Your body uses them to fend off illnesses and infections. The term “leukopenia” refers to a condition where one has too few WBCs.Leukopenia is examined in further detail in this article, along with its kinds, symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Low level of white blood cells
What does a low white blood cell count entail?
The results of a blood test known as a complete blood count, or CBC, generally include WBC levels. Cells per microliter (L) of blood or cells per cubic millimetre (mm3) of blood might be used to express the results.
The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society provides the normal ranges of WBCs in the table below.
Per litre of blood, WBCs
Men 5,000 to 10,000
4,500 to 11,000 women
between 5,000 and 10,000 kids
Leukopenia is often diagnosed when WBC values are below these reference levels. Your doctor will prescribe more testing to identify the cause of your low WBC levels.
What variations of leukopenia are there?
Leukopenia comes in a variety of forms depending on the type of WBC that is low in your blood. WBCs come in a variety of forms.
The role of each type of WBC in defending your body against pathogens or toxic substances varies.
You have neutropenia, a kind of leukopenia that occurs when the number of neutrophils in your blood is low. The WBCs, known as neutrophils, guard you against numerous infections, especially those caused by bacteria or fungi.
Your overall WBC count is composed of 55 to 70 per cent neutrophils. As a result, a decrease in neutrophils frequently results in leukopenia. In fact, some people conflate the term “neutropenia” with “leukopenia.”
What signs and symptoms are there of leukopenia?
Leukopenia usually won’t show any symptoms to you. However, if your WBC levels are really low, you can be showing symptoms of infection, such as:
Chills, perspiration, and a temperature of at least 100.4 °F
Cough or breathlessness
A part of your body that has developed redness, swelling, or pain
A wound that is bleeding pus
White patches in your mouth or mouth sores
When should I get medical help?
It’s crucial to see a doctor right away if you develop any of the aforementioned symptoms or recurring infections. A fever can be the only sign of an illness, so keep that in mind as well.
Why does leukopenia occur?
Leukopenia can be brought on by numerous illnesses and conditions, including:
diseases of the blood or bone marrow
The bone marrow’s stem cells are the source of WBCs. Leukopenia can also result from illnesses that damage blood cells or the bone marrow. Examples of such circumstances include:
With aplastic anaemia
A number of myelomas
Syndrome of myeloproliferation
Your spleen plays a crucial role in the creation of WBCs. Leukopenia can also result from splenomegaly, which is an enlarged spleen.
Chemotherapy for cancer
The goal of cancer treatments is to find and destroy your body’s rapidly dividing cancer cells.
Radiation treatment (especially when used on large bones, such as those in your legs and pelvis)
Transplantation of bone marrow
At birth, congenital diseases are present. Conditions that influence how bone marrow produces blood cells are among those that can result in leukopenia.
Severe congenital neutropenia, or the Kostmann syndrome
Leukopenia can be brought on by a number of infectious illnesses, including:
AIDS or HIV
The typhoid virus
Leukopenia can also result from other acute viral infections, such as the flu, or any infection that is really severe.
Immune system diseases
Leukopenia can result from some autoimmune diseases that can kill WBCs or bone marrow stem cells, which produce blood cells. Examples of autoimmune conditions that could result in leukopenia include:
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies, such as those in the following, can lead to leukopenia:
Leukopenia can also be an adverse effect of several drugs. Examples include:
Wellbutrin, bupropion, carbimazole, and clozapine (Clozaril)
Cyclosporine (Sandimmune) (Sandimmune)
lamotrigine (Lamictal) (Lamictal)
Minocycline (Minocin) (Minocin)
Mofetil mycophenolate (CellCept)
Sirolimus (Rapamune) (Rapamune)
Tacrolimus (Prograf) (Prograf)
Acid valproate (Depakote)
A heightened immune response is the root cause of the systemic disease sarcoidosis.
Who is susceptible to leukopenia?
A person is at risk if they have a condition that can lead to leukopenia.
Leukopenia typically does not result in any overt symptoms.
What possible side effects could leukopenia have?
If leukopenia is not treated, it can result in certain potentially dangerous problems since it involves low amounts of infection-fighting immune cells. Leukopenia complications can include the following:
being forced to postpone cancer treatment due to a minor infection
life-threatening illnesses, such as the deadly bloodstream infection septicemia
Sepsis is your body’s potentially fatal reaction to a blood infection.
Persistent or ongoing infections
How to identify leukopenia
Your doctor will conduct a physical examination and obtain a medical history before making a leukopenia diagnosis. You’ll be questioned about the following:
Whether you have a personal or family history of any health conditions, like autoimmune disorders or malignancies of the blood or bone marrow, what symptoms you are currently experiencing, and when your symptoms first began? What drugs you’re taking right now?
Your personal habits
One of the initial tests performed to identify leukopenia is a complete blood count (CBC). Your doctor will learn from this test how many white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets are in your blood.
Your WBC counts can be low overall, according to a CBC. Your doctor will likely require further information, though.
Your doctor will conduct more tests once your WBC count is determined to be low to help identify your issue’s root. Several instances include:
Checks for viruses that cause hepatitis or HIV
Samples of a damaged area are performed to check for bacterial or fungal infections.
Testing for inflammation, such as C-reactive protein or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), as well as tests for autoantibodies, such as rheumatoid factor or antinuclear antibody, may be used to diagnose autoimmune diseases in patients (ANA). Bone marrow testing can be performed by biopsy, aspiration, or both.