Low white blood cell indicates the presence of one or more serious medical conditions, such as: hyperthyroidism, leukemia, aplastic anemia or any infectious disease. Having this condition is not good for the overall health because it makes the body susceptible to infections and other illnesses.
White blood cells are important to the body’s immune system because they fight off infections and blood disorders in the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. Each type of white blood cell has its own essential role in defending the body from certain maladies, like viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi and some allergic reactions.
White blood cells are the armed guards of the body, whose main purpose is to drive back invading infections and other disorders. Too few white blood cells will result in the body’s immnune system being compromised. This will then result in the body being at risk of getting all types of infections, like viruses, fungi and bacteria.
Causes of Low White Blood Cell Count
Leukemia is one of the most common causes of low white blood cell count. This type of cancer has a devastating effect on blood cells and the entire immune system. It directly affects the tissue that forms the bone marrow; this will then turn into a decreasing count of white blood cells as damaged and mutated ones will increase.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV may also cause low white blood cell count; this condition also attacks the immune system.
Congenital disorders such as myelofibrosis (a bone marrow disorder) and lupus (an immune system disorder), cause the body to attack its own defense mechanisms, resulting in the depletion of bone marrow and white blood cells.
People suffering from aplastic anemia do not have the capacity to produce new blood cells; therefore, it is one of the most common causes of low white blood cell count.
Low white blood cell count can also be caused by deficiencies in minerals and vitamins, typhoid fever, influenza and malaria.
Cancer treatment like chemotherapy and radiation treatment can also cause a drop in white blood cell count and may put the patient at very great risk.
Low White Blood Cell Count Symptoms
Low white blood cell count symptoms include:
- Fever – this is the body’s most common first sign of any infection.
- Colds and Flu – a person with low white blood cell count has no defense against these conditions.
- Gastrointestinal infections (like diarrhea)
- Urinary tract Infection (UTI)
- Sinus Infections (stuffy nose, headache)
- Rectal Bleeding
- Lung infection (coughing up fluid)
Treatments for Low White Blood Cell Count
There are medications available to boost white blood cell count. Usually they are given prior to chemotherapy in order to increase the production of white blood cells as they are expected to hit their lowest level after chemotherapy sessions. Such medicines contain cytokines, which are a type of protein that helps in the stimulation of the bone marrow to produce white blood cells.
Two of the most common medications being prescribed are Neupogen (filgrastim) and Neulasta (pegfilrastim). Filgrastim is most commonly given as a daily injection for a series of consultations while pegfilgratim is given on one dose only.
Leukine (sargramostim) is a drug less commonly given to boost white blood cell count.
Precautions to be taken to prevent the Risk of Further Infection:
There are certain precautionary measures a patient can take to reduce the risk of more infection. Since the body is very susceptible to outside infections, observing the following will lessen the chance of being inflicted by more infections:
- Keep your hands clean and remind people around you to do the same.
- Keep your fingernails neatly trimmed.
- Avoid people with colds or infection; wear a surgical mask if you need to, especially if going out into crowded places.
- Avoid being in close contact with fresh plants, flowers and fruits; they do contain bacteria and fungi.
- Always be on the look out for any cuts and scratches; once you have them, clean them thoroughly and apply new dressings at least once a day.
- Use antiseptic mouthwash after brushing your teeth.