The treatment for agranulocytosis depends upon whether the condition is acquired or congenital. The following article provides information about the various treatment options available for this condition.
Agranulocytosis is a blood disorder characterized by a marked decrease in the level of granulocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the blood. This condition is also known as malignant neutropenia, and is a form of leukemia. It generally occurs due to the failure of the bone marrow to synthesize adequate amount of granulocytes. The condition can also arise as a result of increased destruction of white blood cells. Granulocytes are specialized white blood cells that play a key role in supporting the immune system of the body.
There are three types of granulocyte, and neutrophil is one of the most common type. These cells are filled with microscopic granules that contain certain enzymes. These enzymes are essential for the digestion of various harmful microorganisms, by means of phagocytosis (process of engulfing). In people affected by this condition, the number of neutrophil granulocytes falls below the normal level and the person becomes susceptible to a wide range of infections. The condition can be either acquired or congenital. In the former, the condition develops due to certain medical treatment or drugs, whereas in the latter it is present since birth.
As aforementioned, a low neutrophil count makes the person susceptible to different types of infection. The symptoms may vary from person to person. Some common symptoms include:
- Sudden fever
- Sore throat
- Mouth ulcers
- Bleeding gums
- Frequent infections (fungal, viral or bacterial)
- Bacterial pneumonia
The signs and symptoms of this condition are similar to many other health conditions. Therefore, it is difficult to diagnose the condition based on the symptoms. However, the condition can be diagnosed with the help of a blood test, which helps in determination of the number of white blood cells. Other tests include urine test, bone marrow test, and genetic test. A test to identify the presence of antineutrophil antibodies can also be carried out to find the underlying cause of this condition. If this blood disorder is caused by some other medical condition, then that particular condition must be treated.
In case of acquired agranulocytosis, the initial treatment involves the withdrawal of the drugs that may have caused the condition. Certain specific antibiotics may also help combat the various infections. Third generation cephalosporins or equivalents are generally used in the treatment of various infections. However, it is recommended to keep the affected person in isolation, to prevent him/her from contracting an infection.
Another treatment option is the transfusion of white blood cells. However, this has a short-term effect as the granulocytes live only for about ten hours in the circulation. Moreover, the transfusion procedure involves several complications, which is why it is avoided. Treating with Granulocyte Colony Stimulating Factor (G-CSF) or Granulocyte Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) may also result in effective hematologic recovery. These factors stimulate the production of granulocytes in the body, and help in replenishing their levels in the blood.
Bone marrow transplant is considered as the last resort for the treatment of this bone marrow malfunction. Although it is an effective treatment, a person needs to meet certain requirements, in order to be eligible for this medical procedure. Given below are some of the criteria for a person affected with this condition to be able to undergo a bone marrow transplant.
- He/she should be under the age of 40 years.
- The person should have good health prior to the bone marrow transplant.
- The person should have a matching donor, preferably a family member.
If the person meets the aforementioned criteria, he/she is considered a good candidate for bone marrow transplant, and the procedure is carried out. However, there are several risks involved in this procedure, and it is advisable to consult a qualified health care professional for effective treatment.
The person with agranulocytosis is at a risk for infections, until the white blood cell count returns to normal. Activities that increase the rate of heartbeat, excessive exercises, and exposure to contagious diseases should be avoided to prevent recurrence of the condition.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.