Low white blood cell count

White blood cells are part of the body's immune system and, therefore, they fulfill a function of protection against infections. These cells are the first to respond when a foreign agent appears and go to the exact site of infection to destroy it.

Low white blood cell count is not in itself a disease, but it can be the symptom of some pathology. In principle, this condition indicates that the immune system is weakened and, therefore, the body is more vulnerable to infections and bacteria.

The normal number of white blood cells in the blood is not an exact number. On the one hand, it depends on age; on the other, there are people who have a low count in relation to the usual average, but do not have any health problems. Therefore, the count alone does not yield definitive conclusions.

What is a low white blood cell count

White blood cells fight external agents and protect the body from diseases.

Low white blood cell count, also known as leukopenia or leukocytopenia, has to do with a decrease in the presence of white blood cells, or leukocytes, in the blood. It is important to clarify that there are several types of white blood cells, which are mainly classified into two groups:

  • Polymorphonuclear. They include neutrophils, eosinophils, and basophils.
  • Lymphocytes and monocytes.

The most numerous white blood cells are neutrophils and lymphocytes. For that reason, when there is a low count of these types of cells, it usually also implies a decrease in neutrophils or lymphocytes. In the first case, we speak of neutropenia; in the second case, lymphocytopenia.

In general, it is estimated that there is a low white blood cell count when there are fewer than 4,000 per cubic millimeter of blood.

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Types of low white blood cell count

As there are several types of white blood cells, one can also speak of several types of low counts, namely:

  • Neutropenia. It is the most common and involves a low neutrophil count. These cells basically fight against infections caused by fungi and bacteria. There is a low count if your number is less than 1,000 or 1,500 per cubic millimeter of blood.
  • Lymphocytopenia. It is also very common and involves a low lymphocyte count which basically fights viral infections. It is considered that it exists when there are less than 1,000 lymphocytes for every cubic millimeter of blood.
  • Monocytopenia. It is the low count of monocytes, cells that help regulate the body's immune response and help eliminate damaged tissues. It occurs when there is less than 150 per cubic millimeter of blood.
  • Eosinopenia. It is the low count of eosinophils, cells that act in allergic reactions, infections and other diseases. It occurs when they are less than 50 per cubic millimeter of blood.
  • Basopenia. It occurs when the presence of basophils, the cells that act mainly in parasitic infections and allergic reactions, is less than 20 per cubic millimeter of blood.

Causes and symptoms

The presence of unexplained symptoms, such as excessive fatigue, is a reason for medical consultation.

The causes of leukopenia are very diverse and even in many cases the problem is corrected without ever knowing what was the reason that produced it. However, the low white blood cell count is most often due to an infection.

Also, it is relatively common that it is due to an autoimmune diseasesuch as lupus, Felty syndrome, etc. It can also be the result of some form of cancer, particularly leukemia, or chemotherapy or radiation therapy to treat these conditions. Some medications cause a reduction in white blood cells.

A person with leukopenia may present symptoms such as migraine, malaise, vertigo, weakness, fever, mood swings, diarrhea, extreme fatigue or tiredness, and swollen glands, among others. To detect this condition, it is enough to perform a blood test in the laboratory.

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What to do?

Treatment for leukopenia varies depending on the severity of it and the cause that produces it.. The first thing to determine is precisely the underlying pathology.

Only in some cases is it decided to administer steroids and vitamin supplements to stimulate the functioning of the bone marrow, the place where white blood cells are generated.

Healthy habits are the most appropriate measure to prevent leukopenia. Healthy practices stimulate the body and normal metabolism. It is advisable to do frequent physical activity, maintain a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, drink water frequently, take care of personal hygiene and get enough hours of sleep each night.

Of course, if you experience unexplained fatigue, weakness, fever or migraine, a medical visit is advised. Only the professional is capable of evaluating the general physical condition and making an adequate diagnosis.

A diagnosed low white blood cell count. it will be the doctor who investigates the reasons and, later, influences them to work the root problem. For this reason, medical consultation is vital.