Neutrophils are one of the prime defense mechanisms of the immune system. They are a type of white blood cells which offer a protective barrier to the body, particularly against bacterial and fungal infections. They are produced in the bone marrow. They constitute about 45 - 70% of all white blood cells in the body. And as obvious it is, low neutrophils increase the affected person's vulnerability to contract infectious diseases. The following section is a brief on the various causes of this condition, and its other related aspects, such as symptoms and treatment.
What is Neutropenia?
The measure of neutrophils in the blood that could define neutropenia may not remain constant, and may differ from one medical practice to another. Generally, if a person has 1700 neutrophils per microliter of blood or fewer than it, then he is said to be diagnosed with neutropenia. Also, there is something known as absolute neutrophil count (ANC) using which medical experts can determine the severity of the condition. ANC is defined as a measure of the number of neutrophil granulocytes (per microliter of blood). According to some experts:
- ANC less than 1500 but greater or equal to 1000 = mild neutropenia
- ANC less than 1000 but greater or equal to 500 = moderate neutropenia
- ANC less than 500 = severe neutropenia
What Causes Low Neutrophils?
As white cells are manufactured in the bone marrow, so a dearth in the production of neutrophils may indicate poor function of the bone marrow, or it may also signify that conditions such as cancer, viral infections or other diseases are damaging the bone marrow. Also, there are some autoimmune disorders which are known to destroy neutrophils or the cells in the bone marrow. The same condition may be caused by the application of certain medications. In some cases, a person may be affected by such an infection which is too overwhelming to be handled by the white blood cells. As a result of which, neutrophils are utilized at a rate faster than they are produced. Other possible causes may include alcoholism, chemotherapy, radiation, malaria, mononucleosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis to name a few.
Usually, most people remain unaware even if they have the problem of low neutrophil. With time, symptoms such as severe infection or sepsis start surfacing. These may be later accompanied by pus, fever, and frequent infections which is obvious to understand as the white blood cells are low in number thus, insufficient to ward off diseases. As a reaction to the infection, the person may also suffer from vomiting, diarrhea, burning sensation during urination, sore throat or pain or swelling around a wound.
Treatment involves treating the underlying cause of the condition, and managing the symptoms. Medications including antibiotic or antifungal drugs may be prescribed to deal with infections. Patients may also be put on substances which may stimulate the production of white blood cells. These substances include sargramostim or granulocyte colony-stimulating factor. Granulocyte transfusions and corticosteroid therapy or intravenous immune globulin are also included in the course of the treatment.
Apart from following medical recommendations for treating low neutrophil count, following a healthy lifestyle also helps. A nutritious diet, plenty of sleep, ample amount of exercise, and stress management provide a great deal of help in recovering from this illness. Also, one must avoid uncooked food, as they may play host to bacteria and other microorganisms. And as neutropenia makes one vulnerable to infections, one must adhere to the need to wear a face mask, practice good hygiene, and avoid people ailing with cold or other infections.