What is leukopenia?
Leukopenia is a condition where a person has fewer white blood cells in their bloodstream than they should. Leukopenia is diagnosed with a blood test called a complete blood count or CBC. A healthy white blood cell count is between 3,500 and 11,000 white blood cells per microliter. A person with leukopenia may have fewer than 3,500 white blood cells per microliter. White blood cells are made in the bone marrow and are critical for the immune system. Having too few of them means the body is less able to fight off infections and diseases.
There are five types of white blood cells. Each helps to protect the body from a different kind of infection:
- Neutrophils: These make up 55 to 70 percent of total white blood cells. They help fight off fungal and bacterial infections.
- Lymphocytes: These are the second most common type of white blood cell. They protect the body from viral infections.
- Basophils: These are the least common type of the white blood cells. They are involved in inflammatory reactions to allergens.
- Monocytes: These are the largest of the white blood cells. They play a role in fighting off bacteria, fungi, and viruses. They also help mend tissue that has been damaged by inflammation.
- Eosinophils: These fight parasites and play a role in allergic reactions and conditions, such as asthma.
There are five kinds of leukopenia, each one corresponding to the type of white blood cell that is affected.
Conditions that may cause leukopenia
The following conditions may cause leukopenia:
Viral infections: Acute viral infections, such as colds and influenza may lead to temporary leukopenia. In the short term, a viral infection may disrupt the production of white blood cells in a person’s bone marrow. Blood cell and bone marrow conditions: These can lead to leukopenia. Examples include aplastic anemia, overactive spleen, and myelodysplastic syndromes. Cancer: Leukemia and other cancers may damage the bone marrow and lead to leukopenia. Infectious diseases: Examples include HIV, AIDS, and tuberculosis. According to a 2015 study, women with tuberculosis are more likely to develop leukopenia than men. Autoimmune disorders: Some of these kill white blood cells. Examples include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Birth disorders: Also known as congenital disorders, these may lead to leukopenia. Examples include Kostmann syndrome and myelokathexis. Malnutrition: Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies may lead to leukopenia. Examples include deficiencies in vitamin B-12, folate, copper, and zinc. Sarcoidosis: This is an overreaction of the immune system that leads to small areas of inflammation in the body. It can also affect bone marrow. If a medication is causing leukopenia, a doctor might recommend that a person stops taking it or tries a different type. A person should never stop or change their medication without first consulting a doctor. If a person has cancer and their chemotherapy is causing leukopenia, they may need to pause their treatment to allow their white blood cells to replenish. Treatments that use growth factors, such as granulocyte colony-stimulating factor, may help leukopenia. These are often used when chemotherapy is causing leukopenia or if the cause is genetic.
2nd International Conference on Hematology and Oncology
London UK | August23-25, 2018
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