Agranulocytosis is a condition in which the bone marrow is unable to produce enough neutrophils or white blood cells. Here’s an article on the signs and symptoms of agranulocytosis which will help in early diagnosis and treatment of the condition.
Agranulocytosis, also known as malignant neutropenia, is a blood disorder characterized by critically low levels of granulocytes. Now, what are granulocytes? Granulocytes are the specialized white blood cells that support the immune system of the body. These granulocytes are filled with microscopic granules that contain certain enzymes, which play a key role in digestion of various harmful microorganisms, by the process of phagocytosis. There are three different types of granulocytes – neutrophils, eosinophils and basophils, each having a specific function. Neutrophil granulocytes are the chief phagocytic leukocytes that are involved in agranulocytosis.
We are all aware of the fact that the chief function of the bone marrow is to produce various blood cells including erythrocytes, leukocytes and platelets. Under normal condition, the bone marrow manufactures blood cells according to the response of the body. For example, when there is a shortage of white blood cells during infections, the bone marrow responds immediately by increasing the production of white blood cells. Malignant neutropenia is a condition characterized by a shortage of white blood cells.
Now, there can be two primary reasons for the shortage of granulocytes. One, the bone marrow is unable to produce the required amount and two, the destruction rate is higher than the normal production rate. A number of factors can affect the normal production of neutrophil granulocytes. Diseases that damage the bone marrow, certain hereditary disorders, some types of autoimmune diseases, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and use of certain drugs are some of the common causes.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms may vary from person to person depending on the cause and severity of the condition. The low neutrophil count makes the patient susceptible to a wide range of infections. This is due to the lack of granulocytes to fight against the infections. Respiratory infections are quite common among people with agranulocytosis. Some other symptoms are as follows:
- Sudden fever
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers
- Bleeding gums
- Bacterial pneumonia
- Low white blood cell count
- Fungal, bacterial or viral infections
Diagnosis and Treatment
It is very difficult to diagnose the condition based on the signs of this disorder as the symptoms are similar to many other health conditions. The most reliable way of confirming the condition is by a blood test that helps in determination of the white blood cell count. Other tests that may be required for diagnosis of the condition include urine test, fluid test and a bone marrow test. Once this bone marrow disorder is diagnosed, the next step involves determination of the exact cause of the condition.
There are several treatment options available to cure agranulocytosis completely. The treatment usually begins with withdrawal of the drugs that may have caused the condition. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat or prevent infections. Some patients may benefit from transfusion of white blood cells to replace the deficit or by treating with granulocyte colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) or granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF). A bone marrow transplant may be required in severe cases. Treatment of the primary disorder that led to this condition can help in resolving the problem of low neutrophil count to a great extent.
Proper knowledge of the signs and symptoms can help in early diagnosis and effective treatment.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.