Leukopenia is an abnormal decrease of the white blood cells (WBC) or leukocytes in the blood, which can be primary and secondary, depending on the cause. White blood cells are responsible for the response of the immune system to some pathological foreign substances. Normal count of the leukocytes depend on the age, gender, and other characteristics, but runs about 5000-10000 leukocytes per cubic millimeter. Leukopenia is a condition where that number doesn’t overcome 4000 in one cubic millimeter. This decreases the ability to fight the infections and provide protection to the body.
The Process Of Deficiency
An underlining problem can be a genetics disease where bone marrow is not producing enough count of leukocytes, leading to immunodeficiency or due to some secondary infections which affect the production of WBC. There are 5 types of white blood cells:
Other names for this kind of deficiency is neutropenia since this deficiency is usually caused by a low count of neutrophils, where they count 75% of total WBC, therefore leading to lowering the total amount of white blood cells. Another condition is called agranulocytosis which means there are also small amounts or if any amounts
of other granulocytes, which are eosinophils and basophils. White blood cells are being produced inside the bone marrow, where if the bone marrow is being destroyed or there is some disease, the synthesis will be disrupted. Other organs that also take part in the development of the WBC are thymus, lymph nodes and glands, and spleen.
Causes Of The Leukopenia
- Bone marrow damage or suppression
This can be a consequence of drug abuse, chemotherapy, radiation, toxins and cancer development. It usually lowers down all the white blood cells, including red blood cells, associated with anemia as a result. This happens in aplastic anemia, diseases like myeloproliferative syndrome that is blood cancer, myelofibrosis, vitamin B12 deficiency and folate deficiency.
- Autoimmune disorders
This is the process where the body doesn’t recognize his own structures, leading to auto-destruction where the cells are being destroyed. This can happen in SLE or systemic lupus erythematosus. There are also some viruses like HIV virus that can attack lymphocytes, which affects the number of the T lymphocytes and lowers the strength of the immune system where the body is not strong enough to fight even the small flu or some kind of cold, leading to a severe condition of immune deficiency.
This is a condition where during some infection, the leukocytes are being produces in an excessive amount in the blood, where they travel or migrate to the infection location of the body. Since the rush of the leukocytes, mostly neutrophils, to the infected location causes lowering of the cells in the blood, the bone marrow responds in subsequently increased amount of WBC being produced. Since the WBC count is being measured right upon the start of the infection, it can show a false result of the low count of WBC, which means that the cells from the bone marrow didn’t yet arrive at the blood circulation.
- Drug side effects
Some medications can cause a WBC reduction. This kind of meds are:
- Interferons which are used in multiple sclerosis
- Clozapine, an antipsychotic drug
- Metronidazole, which is often used as an antibacterial med
- Valproic acid and lamotrigine (antiepileptic) used for epilepsy, mania, and other disorders
- Chemotherapy and radiation as a therapy for some cancers can decrease the count of the WBC, especially neutrophils
- Other conditions such as malnutrition, hypersplenism, hyperthyroidism, congenital disorders, rheumatoid arthritis and others.
The Main Symptoms Of Leukopenia
Depending on the density of the leukopenia, it can go from mild to severe symptoms and conditions. The main cause of the appearance of all of this symptoms is a weak immune system and lack of natural defense of the body. There is a predisposition for even the small infections, and also some serious ones like tuberculosis, pneumonia, ulcers. Chronic reduction of WBC can make you very vulnerable and susceptible to viruses and bacteria.
- There is a severe decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia
- There can be also thrombocytopenia, that can lead to menorrhagia and metrorrhagia
- Fatigue – feeling of weariness
- Stomatitis – inflammation of the tissue lining of the cheeks, lips, gums
- Ulcers – indent inside the tissue resulting in deep inflammation
- Liver disease – bacterial infection of the liver
- Neurasthenia – resulting in fever, fatigue, headache, emotional disturbance
- Craving of hot drinks
Treatment For The Leukopenia
It is usually targeted to certain symptoms and is also oriented towards the main cause of the leukopenia. This treatment can be:
- Stimulation of the bone marrow – giving steroids and vitamins in order to stimulate the bone marrow for WBC production and it’s proven to be helpful
- Drug cocktails – Mixture of a few drugs that interact with each other and stimulate the immune system, depending on the underlying condition
- Chemotherapy and Cytokine therapies – they are prescribed to some cancer and WBC disease like Leukemia where it’s affecting the cancer cells in the pathologically altered bone marrow.
- Good night sleep – this is also important and you can do it by yourself. Sleeping enough at night can stimulate the production of the bone marrow, resting at least 7-8 hours per night and letting your body relief the stress and give a chance to recover.
Early diagnose is the most important therapy where discovering the main cause and acting towards a solution can solve the real problem. Consulting your doctor when spotting this kind of symptoms is the thing to do.