Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells that fight infections. Decreased count of these cells in the body indicates a compromised immune system. Buzzle enlightens you more about the exact reason behind this condition.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells of the immune system, which can be further classified into various types that combat different types of infections. Sometimes, even though you may feel perfectly normal, your blood differential tests may indicate a low lymphocyte count. There are many reasons for this condition. This article will tell you the reasons behind this occurrence. Before that, you need to know the importance of these cells.
These are a class of white blood cells, which are the first mode of combat in case of a viral or bacterial infection. They are further classified as Natural Killer (NK) cells, T cells and B cells. Of these, T cells are involved in something known as cell mediated immunity, B cells are involved in humoral immunity, which is mainly immunity from antibodies. NK cells are a part of innate immunity that defends the body against tumors and virus.
All these cells are extremely important in fighting off bacterial and viral infections, and therefore, a decreased count of these cells indicates that a person is more susceptible to an infection. Decreased lymphocytes in the blood causes a condition known as lymphocytopenia. The table below will tell you more about the types of lymphocytes and their function.
|Class of Lymphocytes||Function|
|NK Cells||Lysis of tumor cells and virally infected ones|
|Helper T Cells||Release cytokines and growth factors to regulate the production of other immune cells|
|Cytotoxic T Cells||Lysis of tumor and virally infected cells and allografts|
|Gamma T Cells||Cytotoxicity|
|B Cells||Antibody Mediated immunity|
Causes of Decreased Lymphocytes
The primary reason for this is viral infections, due to which, there is a drop in the count of these cells where the virus, sometimes, infects the lymphocytes as seen in an HIV infection. The HIV attacks the T cells of the lymphocytes, due to which, a blood differential will always show a low lymphocyte count.
Another reason for a low lymphocyte count may be a problem in their production. These cells are formed in the bone marrow, thus, if the bone marrow is not functioning properly their number will decrease. This happens in conditions such as aplastic anemia, where the production of all three types of blood cells is drastically reduced.
Certain drugs used in chemotherapy or the radiation therapy leads to a temporary reduction in lymphocyte count. Thus, people undergoing this treatment are more susceptible to infections. Other reasons for a lowered lymphocyte count may be diseases such as, multiple sclerosis or Guillain Barré syndrome. Certain cancers and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, are also a cause for this condition. Low lymphocytes in children is a cause of concern, as these are the major cells of the body that fight against infections in children unlike adults, where the neutrophils also play an equally important role.
As mentioned earlier, there are no particular symptoms for lymphocytopenia; it can be diagnosed by conducting a blood differential test that gives the count of all the blood cells.
The treatment for lymphocytopenia mainly depends upon the cause of the disease. If the cause for the condition is HIV/AIDS, the individual is treated with a combination of 3 antivirals of different classes. This increases the number of T cells in the blood. In other cases, Gamma globulin treatment is given to individuals to prevent infections in people with a low B cell count. In case of an autoimmune disorder, a bone marrow transplant is done. More often, a repeated test is recommended by doctors after a gap of a week, to see whether the count is normal before beginning any medication.
Thus reduced lymphocytes may be a manifestation of various diseases. Do not jump to a conclusion, if you have a reduced count of these cells or any other blood cells. Confirm your results with the doctor.