Definition of Leukopenia and Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

The definition of leukopenia states that it is a decrease in the white blood cell(WBC) count of the body and can directly affect the body's ability to fight infections. White blood cells are present in the blood and help ward off any infections affecting the body. With reduced number of white blood cells, your risk of infection increases. There are many reasons that can lead to leucopenia, so it is very important to rule out all underlying factors of the disease before starting treatment.

Leukopenia Definition

The decrease in the total number of white blood cells, or leukocytes, circulating in the blood is defined as leucopenia. The normal count of the leukocytes in the blood ranges from 5000-10000 per cubic millimeter and this number may vary from person to person. Also, compared to adults, children can have a lower blood count depending on their sex and age. However, a value lower than 4000 per cubic millimeter is considered as low white blood cell count.

Symptoms of Leukopenia

Blood contains of 5 different kinds of WBCs. They are: Neutrophils, Eosinophils, Basophils, Monocytes and Lymphocytes. Each cell type has different roles in fighting infections. While mild symptoms of the disease are hard to determine, severe symptoms may need immediate medical attention. Here are some of its main symptoms, which will give you a better idea about leukopenia definition:

  • Reduction in the red blood cells in the body
  • A decrease in platelet count of the blood
  • Heavy or prolonged menstrual period
  • Non-period heavy bleeding, a possible indication of infection
  • Emotional disturbances accompanied by extreme fatigue and severe headaches
  • An increased inflammation of mucous lining of the cheeks, gums, lips
  • Viral or bacterial infections that can lead to inflammation in the lungs and infection of the liver
  • Extreme fatigue, hot flashes and prone to tiredness
  • More prone to infections and ulceration
  • An increased desire and craving for hot drinks

When to Seek Professional Help

Leukopenia definition defines it as a condition that results in low WBC count. If you are facing the abovementioned symptoms, or if you suspect you have leukopenia, it is best to seek medical advice.

The doctor will order a complete blood report, which will help determine the type of condition you are facing. Leucopenia is generally due to some other underlying disorder, so further tests are needed to determine the exact cause of the disease.

A low blood count can make you very susceptible to infections. So you need to talk to your doctor and determine ways to avoid any infections. Some precautionary measures will help keep you safe, which should include regular washing of your hands, using a face mask and avoiding all contacts with infected person.

What Causes Leukopenia?

You will never get a full picture of leukopenia definition without knowing the causes of leukopenia. This condition is indicative of severe infection, deficiencies, and diseases or due to intake of certain drugs.

1. Medical Causes

  • These include viral or bacterial infections, like HIV, malaria, influenza, typhoid, dengue, tuberculosis, sepsis, psittacosis, Lyme disease and rickettsial infections. These infections can disrupt the bone marrow function of the body and decrease the WBC count.
  • In addition to infections, some autoimmune diseases like myelokathexis and diseases like aplastic anemia and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) also cause decrease in WBCs.
  • Besides, certain types of cancer, like Hodgkin’s lymphoma and leukemia, can decrease the total white blood count in the body.
  • Malnutrition, along with deficiencies in the essential nutrients like copper and zinc in the body, can cause low WBC.

2. Medications

Many medications you take for certain disorders can bring about reduction in the WBC count and make you vulnerable to leukopenia.

  • An antipsychotic drug, clozapine, causes total eradication of all granulocytes in the blood.
  • Bupropion HCl, which is an antidepressant and a drug used for smoking addiction treatment, also leads to decrease in leukocytes after prolonged use.
  • Drugs used for mania, migraine and epilepsy, valproic acid and lamotrigine (antiepileptic), also cause leucopenia.
  • A common antibacterial drug, metronidazole, also leads to decreased WBCs.
  • Many immunosuppressive drugs, like sirolimus, mycophenolate mofetil, tacrolimus, cyclosporine, leflunomide and many TNF inhibitors, can cause leucopenia.
  • Interferon proteins, that are used commonly in multiple sclerosis treatment, e.g., Rebif, Avonex, and Betaseron, can lead to leukopenia.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy for treating cancer can severely decrease the leukocytes in the body. The major treatment for cancer is the decrease in the total count of Neutrophils or Neutropenia.
  • At last, even arsenic poisoning can to some extent cause leucopenia.

How to Treat Leukopenia

Leukopenia is not a fatal disorder. However, it can lead to increase in the rate of infections affecting the body, which can prove to be dangerous for you in the long run.People who are affected by leucopenia are very prone to respiratory infections, HIV and so on. The person suffering from this disorder needs to be treated immediately under medical supervision to prevent other infections from affecting his body.

  • In order to treat leukopenia, doctor will prescribe certain steroids and vitamins to activate the bone marrow to increase the production of the leukocytes.
  • Many therapies like cytokine therapy and chemotherapy are used to increase WBC count. However if the disorder is very severe, doctor will prescribe a certain cocktail of drugs to increase WBC count.
  • Along with all the medications, a restful sleep can help the body to increase the count of leukocytes. Sleeping for 7-8 hours daily can energize the body and help it repair the wear and tear of the tissues, along with increasing WBC production.
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