Leukopenia: everything you need to know about this hematological disease

Leukopenia is a hematological disease that compromises the production of white blood cells, being able to turn into a pathology of care.

Find out below its definition, its possible causes, how to diagnose it, the possible treatments and in what ways you can prevent the appearance of leukopenia in your body throughout your life.

Leukopenia: what is it and how to detect it

Surely at some point you have heard about this disease and you find yourself wondering the what is leukopenia and how can I know if I have it. We will try to delve into these two questions in a simple and easy to understand way, always keeping in mind that when we investigate information regarding diseases and especially these types of delicate pathologies we should always seek the advice of a health professional.

Leukopenia: definition and symptoms

Leukopenia is a disease that affects the level of white blood cells or leukocytes in the blood. These globules are in charge of defending our body against diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi and other pathogens present in the environment.

There are different types of white blood cells, such as: neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils. Within all these variants, those with the greatest presence in our bloodstream are neutrophils, being in fact the most affected by leukopenia. When this disease affects this type of white blood cells more strongly, it is called neutropenia.

We can say that a person suffers from neutropenia when the number of neutrophils in their blood is less than 1,500 per milliliter. If this level falls below 500 per milliliter, we are facing severe neutropenia, substantially increasing the possibility of developing infectious diseases, which can put the patient’s life at risk.

One thing to keep in mind is that people of African descent and the Middle East tend to have a blood neutrophil level of less than 1000 per milliliter.

Leukopenia: symptoms and how to detect it

Symptoms related to leukopenia have to do with higher incidence in the patient of infectious diseases, especially caused by bacteria and fungi. This is due to the fact that by lowering the white blood cell count, the body’s defenses decrease considerably, opening the door to these infections, which although for a healthy body can be temporary in a person suffering from leukopenia, these can become chronic .

Among the main recurring conditions that can cause alarm are:

  • Anemia
  • General discomfort
  • Soft spot
  • Appearance of allergies
  • Fever and diarrhea
  • Vertigo
  • Migraines
  • Swollen glands
  • Thrombocytopenia

To achieve an accurate diagnosis of leukopenia, it is sufficient to perform a blood test, punctually a hemogram that allows doctors to know in detail the levels of white blood cells in the patient’s blood. For the study to be as effective as possible, fasting is recommended for at least 8 hours prior to drawing the blood sample.

Another mechanism to detect leukopenia is to perform a biopsy to a sample of lymph node tissue.

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Leukopenia: possible causes of this pathology

As we have commented previously, leukopenia is a disease that is caused by a deficit of white blood cells, specifically neutrophils. Now, this deficit can be caused by different reasons, we will detail them below:

  • Autoimmune diseases such as systematic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and Felty’s disease.

  • Being exposed to constant radiation.

  • Having infections that directly affect the functioning of the bone marrow, such as tuberculosis, leishmaniasis, brucellosis, malaria, typhoid fever, hepatitis and the HIV-AIDS virus. In pediatric patients, the main cause of leukopenia is severe infection in the bloodstream.

  • Low levels of folic acid and vitamin B12.

  • Having the bone marrow compromised by some type of cancer, such as lymphomas.

  • Having a predisposition to certain types of inherited diseases such as idiopathic chronic neutropenia (whose cause is unfortunately unknown), cyclical neutropenia, among others.

  • The presence of antibodies that are responsible for destroying neutrophils, called anti-neutrophil antibodies.

  • Lastly, taking drugs for the treatment of cancer, especially those used in the chemotherapy process. In turn, some antibiotics and anti-inflammatories can also affect the appearance of leukopenia.

As we can see, when investigating leukopenia, causes and triggers of the disease, we realize that there are several reasons that can give rise to this pathology. That is why it is important to be vigilant to mitigate or avoid them as much as possible.

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Leukopenia: treatments and prognosis

As in many hematological diseases, its treatment will depend to a great extent on the cause that generates it. In the case of leukopenia, these may be the paths to take:

  • When leukopenia develops from taking medications, the first thing to do is stop taking them. This should be enough for the patient to make a full recovery.

  • When the cause is due to the person suffering from an autoimmune disease, treatment with corticosteroids in fairly high doses is recommended.

  • If the patient develops a severe form of leukopenia, the medical team may choose to administer some recombinant granulocyte colony-stimulating factor. These are a type of medicine that helps to rapidly increase the number of white blood cells. In other cases, a white blood cell transfusion can be applied directly.

  • Unfortunately there are cases in which there is no specific treatment, therefore what is recommended is to isolate the patient as much as possible while the disease transits. In order to avoid contagion with possible infections, even when visiting it, the use of sanitary protection equipment, such as gloves and a mask, is always recommended.

Prognosis of a patient with leukopenia

The prognosis for a patient experiencing leukopenia will always depend on the cause of the disease, therefore it is highly variable.

Leukopenia: how to prevent its appearance

The best way to prevent the onset and development of leukopenia is to lead a life with healthy habits, where balance prevails. The most important is stimulate and strengthen our metabolism, to achieve a strong immune system and an adequate white blood cell count. To achieve this we can take the following actions:

  • Get regular physical activity. Exercise not only strengthens the body and mind, but also allows us to maintain the values ​​of our components in the blood at adequate levels.

  • Eat a balanced diet, rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and plenty of water.

  • Avoid as much as possible the risk of infection, for example from poorly healed lesions.

  • We must take special care with our personal hygiene, with great emphasis on the area where mucous membranes predominate, such as the mouth, nose and eyes.

  • Rest is another key point to take care of if we want to prevent the development of a leukopenia picture. Sleeping at least 7 hours a day ensures that we can sustain a strengthened immune system.

Leukopenia is a preventable disease in many cases, we just have to support a lifestyle where we bet on balance. A healthy body and mind help to avoid the development of this type of pathologies and if unfortunately they appear, having had good previous life habits, we will be able to face them in a better way.

Is leukopenia contagious?

The answer is no. Leukopenia is not a disease that can be spread from one person to another. However, some of its variants can be hereditary. This pathology is of care and we should not dismiss it, for this reason whenever a family history is known or you perceive that you are developing some of the symptoms that we detail in the previous sections, we should not let you consult a health professional.

Leukopenia is one of the many diseases that affect the blood. Fortunately, science progresses more quickly every day in the search not only for effective treatments, but also in the possibility of being able to prevent them, seeking to achieve greater predictability in their approach and resolution.

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and you, did you already know about this disease? Tell us in the comments.

Source: NIH


  • Giselle vinokur

Writer, dancer and sociologist UBA. Specializing in Digital Writing.
The love of knowledge and travel made me want to understand social relationships, that’s why I studied Sociology.
I enjoy exploring formats and media, so I have also dabbled in photography, dramatic arts and different types of acrobatics.
My path is a search, never a straight line. Exploring makes us open, creative and adaptable. That is my greatest achievement.
My motto: We are characters building stories.

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