Neutrophils Low

Specific white blood cells called neutrophils work within the body to fight off infections. When neutrophils are low, it causes a condition named neutropenia. This condition leaves the body vulnerable to contagions, especially certain fungi and bacteria.

Neutrophils are considered low when an adult has a count of less than 1,700 per microliter of blood. The lower the count, the more likely someone will contract an infectious disease. An extreme case of neutropenia can even cause someone to suffer infections from bacteria normally already present in the body.

What Are the Symptoms of Low Neutrophils (Neutropenia)?

Neutropenia itself does not give any signs or cause any symptoms. Usually, this condition is discovered by a blood test. Chemotherapy often causes neutropenia, so your doctor will routinely monitor your white blood cell count when you are receiving treatment.

For patients afflicted with neutropenia, a minor infection can rapidly turn into something serious. Signs of infection are listed below:

  • Fever
  • Chills or sweating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sore throat or toothache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Persistent cough
  • Pain or sores in and around the anal area
  • Frequent urination accompanied by pain or burning sensation
  • Unusual vaginal itching or discharge
  • Any swelling, pain, or redness around the area of intravenous catheter insertion or at the site of a cut or wound

When to See a Doctor

When you have low neutrophils, it is usually found through a blood test ordered for another condition already affecting you. The results will show the presence of neutropenia through the white blood cell count.

It is vital you discuss with your doctor what neutropenia is and how it may affect your health. This condition will make you more vulnerable to infections so it is important to take precautions when around sick individuals or certain bacterial and fungal infections.

What Are the Causes of Low Neutrophils (Neutropenia)?

Possible causes of neutrophils low count:

  • Production problems of neutrophils in the bone marrow
  • Diseases that affect or damage bone marrow
  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Infection

Causes of a decrease in production of neutrophils include:

  • Congenital disorders that cause poor bone marrow production
  • Diseases like leukemia that affect the bone
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation treatment

Neutropenia can be caused by infections that include:

  • Tuberculosis
  • HIV
  • Viral hepatitis
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Crohn's disease
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

For some individuals, neutropenia can be caused by certain medications including:

  • Antibiotics and diuretics
  • Blood pressure drugs
  • Epilepsy medications
  • Medications for psychiatric disorders

Types of Neutropenia

There are different types of neutropenia:

  • Congenital neutropenia – This is a very rare type where a person is born with the condition. In some cases, it can also develop into a very serious form of the disorder.
  • Idiopathic neutropenia – This type is often a result of someone being ill. Sometimes doctors use the term when an individual gets sick and are unable to associate their symptoms to another disease or condition.
  • Cyclic neutropenia – This type is identified by the occurrence of neutrophils low levels every three weeks, persisting for anywhere between 3-6 days with each incident. It is named by the fact that individuals with this condition tend to be more vulnerable to infection between weeks three to four of the cycle.
  • Autoimmune neutropenia – In this type of neutropenia, the body’s antibodies reject and destroy neutrophil cells. This condition is commonly found in infants and young children. However, most of the time a child’s symptoms will improve as they grow older.
  • Drug-induced neutropenia – This type of the condition happens when a person is taking medications that interfere with white blood cells and lowers the neutrophil count.

What Are the Treatments for Low Neutrophils (Neutropenia)?

In most cases, neutropenia can be treated with a synthetic copy of the hormone, known as granulocyte-colony stimulating factors (G-CSF), which stimulates neutrophils to grow in bone marrow. G-CSF is administered daily through a subcutaneous injection and can increase a person’s neutrophils count.

Sometimes bone marrow transplants are the best course of treatment. It is usually a good alternative when leukemia is the cause of the condition or if the G-CSF shots do not work.

There are also other available therapies that can treat infections caused by the disorder. They include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Corticosteroids
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Immunosuppressive drugs
  • Cytokines
  • Glucocorticoids
  • White cell transfusions
  • Vitamins

Living with Low Neutrophils (Neutropenia)

Individuals living with low neutrophils need to take precautions which will help prevent infections. Some neutropenia deterrents include:

  • Practicing good hygiene. Frequently wash your hands. Take good care of your teeth with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Wear shoes to avoid injuring or exposing yourself to harmful germs.
  • Steer clear of sick people.
  • Instead of using a regular razor, use an electric shaver.
  • After cleaning scrapes or minor cuts, cover them with a bandage to keep the area clean.
  • Avoid hot tubs, rivers or ponds. They are breeding grounds for bacteria.
  • Do not eat unpasteurized dairy or juices. Avoid undercooked meat. Do not consume raw vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains and honey.
  • Stay away from animal waste and, if possible, do not change babies’ diapers.
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