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Causes of Agranulocytosis

Causes of Agranulocytosis

Agranulocytosis is the result of diseases or disorders that affect the production of granulocytes by the bone marrow, as well as conditions which bring about an abnormal destruction of these blood cells. The following HealthHearty article enlists the causes and risk factors associated with the same.
Batul Nafisa Baxamusa
Agranulocytosis is a condition that involves reduction in the number of granulocytes, especially neutrophils, present in blood. In this condition, the bone marrow fails to produce sufficient quantity of granulocytes, or may destroy more than the normal number of granulocytes. The number of granulocytes, that is neutrophils, basophils, and eosinophils, may drop below 100 cells/mm3. This increases the risk of serious infections, since these cells are an important component of the immune system.

The form of agranulocytosis that is present since birth, is termed congenital agranulocytosis. On the other hand, if the condition is a result of a disorder developed during the later stages of life, or arises due to an adverse effect of certain medication, it is termed acquired agranulocytosis.

The possible cause for agranulocytosis in case of the congenital form is a genetic abnormality. The acquired form of the condition may be a result of:
  • Bone marrow cancer
  • Bone marrow fibrosis
  • Toxins in the blood
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections
  • Aplastic anemia
  • Use of anti-epileptic drugs, anti-thyroid drugs, and antibiotics
  • Use of NSAIDs and cytotoxic drugs
  • Diseases and disorders affecting white blood cells
Risk Factors
There are certain risk factors that increase the chances of developing agranulocytosis. These include:
  • Severe bacterial or viral infection
  • Spleen enlargement
  • Chemotherapy for cancer treatment
  • Exposure to radiation or chemical toxins
  • Leukemia
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome
  • Family history of genetic disorders
  • Deficiency of vitamin B12
  • Consumption of drugs like cocaine, which are adulterated by levamisole.
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Sudden fever
  • Chills
  • Jaundice
  • Sore throat
  • Weakness
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Bleeding gums
  • Urinary tract infection
  • Septicemia
  • Increased salivation
If the doctor suspects agranulocytosis, he may perform a blood test to determine the numbers of all blood cells. He may even ask for a urine and blood test for screening of infectious agents, in case of fever. In severe cases, a bone marrow test may be suggested. In case of people with autoimmune diseases, the blood may be tested for anti-neutrophil antibodies. Few patients may even require to undergo certain genetic tests.

The treatment prescribed depends on the underlying cause. For example, if an infectious agent is found to be the cause, antibiotic treatment may be suggested. Apart from this, the following options are available to deal with a low granulocyte count.
  • Transfusion of granulocytes to replace the deficit
  • Use of granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) or granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), to stimulate the production of granulocytes
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.