White blood cells, which are also referred to as leukocytes, are an important component of the immune system. The immune system protects the body from a number of infections and diseases, with the help of antibodies produced by the white blood cells. The leukocytes also help in fighting against the abnormalities that are present in the bone marrow, lymphatic system and the bloodstream. Hence the leukocytes are an essential part of the human body. The bone marrow creates about 100 billion leukocytes every day. The normal white blood cell count in a healthy body is approximately between 4,000 to 11,500 cells per microliter of blood. In children, the count is a bit higher as compared to adults. The approximate count of leukocytes in newborn babies ranges from 9,000 to 30,000.
White blood cells are classified into five major types, namely, lymphocytes (which consist of T cells and B cells), basophils, neutrophils, eosinophils and monocytes. The main function of these cells is to defend the body from maladies. Many times due to some illness, the count can come down. If the count drops below 3,000 cells per microliter of blood, then it can result in a condition known as leukopenia or low white blood cell count. The exact level can be determined with the help of a laboratory blood test.
Causes of Low White Blood Count
There are several reasons why the level of leukocytes may lower. This drastic reduction can be a result of bacterial or viral infections, cancer, congenital disorders of the immune system and the bone marrow and also due to some therapies etc. Certain drugs like diuretics, immunosuppressants, clozapine and anti psychotics can also lead to a drop in the level of white blood cells in the body. Low white blood count causes in children can result in a number of serious ailments, which can be life-threatening and also prove fatal in some cases. A deficit of lymphocytes can affect the body in a number of ways like a compromised immune system, delay in the healing of wounds etc.
Mentioned below are some of the specific reasons for low white blood count:
- Autoimmune disorders that tend to destroy the bone marrow and hamper the production of white blood cells.
- Severe allergic reactions caused due to the presence of pathogens in the body.
- A condition known as hyperthyroidism, which is caused due to the overproduction of the thyroid hormone.
- Disorders in the liver or spleen. This condition can result in hypersplenism, where the blood cells are destroyed completely.
- Deficiency of vitamins and minerals.
- Congenital disorders, like Kostmann's syndrome, Myelokathexis, Myelofibrosis and Myelodysplastic syndromes etc., which can damage the function of the bone marrow.
- Inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
- HIV/AIDS can also be responsible for the dip in the number of leukocytes in the body.
- Other causative factors for reduced leukocytes in the body include leukemia, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and systemic lupus erythematous which is results in damage of the tissues due to infection.
Low White Blood Count Symptoms
The symptoms of leukopenia may range from mild to intense depending upon the severity of the condition. The mild symptoms cannot be deciphered easily, since the immune system is still strong. In case of severity, the following symptoms can be observed in an affected individual:
- Developing contagious infections easily due to a weak immune system
- Feeling light headed and experiencing fainting spells
- Symptoms, in children, like anemia, fever, frequent headaches etc. can be observed.
- Women may experience prolonged menstrual cycle, also known as menorrhagia.
- A condition known as hematoma, where the blood tends to accumulate under the skin is also observed as one of the symptoms of low white blood count.
- Other symptoms include fatigue, disturbed emotional balance, irritability and hot flashes etc.
To diagnose the exact condition, the individual may have to undergo a blood test, known as complete blood count (CBC). Treatment is administered according to the complaint of the patient. Once the exact condition has been determined, the doctor may prescribe some drugs like cytokines to trigger the production of white blood cells. Antibodies may also be prescribed to treat the infectious diseases. Apart from these, eating a balance meal will also treat this health disorder. Low white blood cell count is a life-threatening condition, if not treated in time, so it is advisable to always consult a doctor.
These were some of the low white blood count causes, along with the symptoms and treatment of this disorder. If leukopenia becomes chronic, the body may lose the tendency to fight against infectious and diseases and fall a prey to them. A regular monitoring of the blood will ensure that the levels of leukocytes are normal and this health disorder is kept at bay. Take care!