Neutropenia, also known as agranulocytosis or by the name of granulocytopenia, is a condition that causes a slight or chronic decrease in the levels of white blood cells known as neutrocytes. These white blood cells, which are also known as granulocytes, consist of the most important defense of our body, protecting us from different infections (mainly bacterial and fungal).
Due to these low levels of white blood cells, neutropenia is a disease that weakens our immune system so people who suffer from that pathology are much more likely to suffer an infection. If you are wondering what neutropenia is and its symptoms, we invite you to continue reading this article from where we explain more things about this disorder.
What is neutropenia: simple definition
As we have advanced in the previous lines, neutropenia is a disorder where an abnormal decrease in neutrophils in the blood is observed, which are certain white blood cells responsible for the main defenses of our body and that protect us from different bacterial diseases and fungal infections.
According to some medical manuals, the lower limit within normal neutrophil levels is 1500 microliters (all). On this basis, neutropenia can be of three types depending on its severity:
- Mild: the number of neutrophils in the blood is between 1000 and 1500/all
- Severe: in this case, the number of neutrophils in the blood is less than 500/all.
Causes of neutropenia
Neutropenia is a disease that can occur for two main reasons: on the one hand, it can occur because the use of neutrophils is much faster than the ability of the bone marrow to make new white blood cells; and on the other hand, because the production of neutrophil in the marrow has been reduced.
Among the main causes of neutropenia, we find:
- Bacterial infections, allergies and drug treatments related to hyperthyroidism.
- People who suffer from autoimmune disorders because they can produce antibodies that eliminate these white blood cells.
- Spleen that has grown abnormally or hepatomegaly (this larger-than-normal organ can trap and destroy neutrophils).
- Diseases such as cancer, viral infections or bacterial infections such as tuberculosis.
- Some treatments reduce the ability of the bone marrow to produce neutrophils such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy, and drugs such as phenytoin and sulfa drugs, among others.
- Aplastic anemia, which is a serious condition that completely stops the production of white blood cells in the bone marrow.
You may also be interested in knowing what are the causes of the decline in white blood cells, which you can find out by consulting this other article from.
What are the symptoms of neutropenia
Neutropenia is a disorder where symptoms can develop gradually or suddenly (appearing in a matter of days and even hours). However, in general it is a disease in which there are no symptoms that you are suffering from it since in many cases it has been diagnosed either when the patient has had a blood test or when another infection has developed.
If you've gotten an infection or think the disease has come on suddenly, it's important to watch if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Fever (usually the only symptom that appears).
- Sore throat and teeth.
- Appearance of sores in the mouth and throat.
- Excessive sweating or chills.
- Pain in the abdominal area.
- Stinging when urinating and/or needing to urinate frequently.
- Pain and/or appearance of sores near the anus.
- Shortness of breath.
- Swelling and redness around wounds or cuts.
- Abnormal vaginal secretions.
Diagnosis and treatment of neutropenia
When a person frequently suffers from infections or takes pharmacological treatments that can cause neutropenia, the doctor will perform a medical examination on the patient and diagnose him through two ways:
- Complete blood count: This is a blood test that mainly measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.
- Bone marrow examination: With the help of a needle, the doctor removes a sample of bone marrow to see if the number of neutrophils is within a normal figure.
Once you have diagnosed the disease, the doctor will assign the treatments based on the cause and the state of severity. However, in general, they usually assign drugs such as antibiotics to fight infections that aggravate the disorder, and treatments that help stimulate the production of neutrophils in the bone marrow.