Leukopenia is a disorder where the number of white blood cells in the body is very low. Blood is primarily of three distinct categories - red blood cells (RBC) known as erythrocytes, white blood cells (WBC) i.e. leukocytes and platelets, also called thrombocytes, all of which are produced in the bone marrow stem cells. The white blood cells are responsible for maintaining a healthy immune system and hence, in leukopenia, when their concentrations are reduced, the ability of the system to combat diseases is also hampered.
Usually, a normal, healthy individual has a white blood cell count between 3,500 to 11,000 WBCs per microliter. Whereas in instances of leukopenia, the blood profile of the affected individual displays a significant drop in leukocyte numbers, to lower than 3,500 WBCs per microliter. This invariably leads to a vulnerable immune system, raising the risk of infection and hence must be reported to a medical professional so as to address the situation of leukopenia promptly.
There are five distinct classifications of WBCs, each of which builds resistance to overcome different types of diseases. These are neutrophils, that defend against fungal, bacterial ailments, lymphocytes that stave off viruses, basophils that fight allergens, inflammation, monocytes that vanquish all pathogenic microbes, inflammatory reactions and eosinophils, which eradicate parasitic infections, allergies. Hence, there are five major kinds of leukopenia, depending on which type of WBC is very low in number.
Leukopenia can be instigated by either lack of sufficient synthesis of white blood cells in the bone marrow or detrimental factors that damage healthy leukocytes in the bloodstream.
Viral ailments like influenza, certain cancers of blood like leukaemia and autoimmune illnesses like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis can give rise to leukopenia. Disorders that wound the functioning of the blood cells and bone marrow, like an overactive spleen and aplastic anaemia can also induce leukopenia.
Furthermore, genetic abnormalities that exist right from birth, such as Kostmann syndrome, myelokathexis, prescription medicines, drug treatments, deficiencies in vitamin B12, zinc, folate and copper can also prompt very low white blood concentrations in the blood.
As such, leukopenia does not present any noticeable indications. However, people afflicted by the blood-related illness are more prone to contracting infections and seasonal diseases, thereby exhibiting the associated signs, that consist of the following:
Fever, with a body temperature well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit
Persistent sweating all over the body
Feeling of numbness and shivering i.e. chills
The doctor assesses all external symptoms of the patient, measuring the body temperature to confirm the onset of fever. Then a CBC or complete blood count analysis is carried out, by collecting a sample of the patient’s blood. This assay calculates the exact number of RBCs, WBCs and platelets in circulation, thus assisting in confirming an instance of low white blood cell count or leukopenia.
Additional evaluations are also performed, to probe the exact cause of leukopenia in the afflicted person.
Once the underlying cause behind leukopenia is identified, the pertinent treatment measures are initiated for the patient. In case it is identified as the strong medications in blood-linked cancer like leukaemia, then chemotherapy, radiation therapy sessions and bone marrow stem cell transplants are temporarily stopped, to help increase the concentration of white blood cells in the body.
The physician also recommends following a stringent diet rich in essential nutrients, immunity-boosting components, taking ample rest and steering clear of injuries, bruises that will lead to more loss of blood. These lifestyle modifications aid in faster healing of the patient with leukopenia, bringing WBC count to normal levels and guaranteeing complete recovery from fever and other discomforting symptoms.